CVS/pharmacy replaced single-ingredient pseudoephedrine products with the tamper-resistant PSE product, Zephrex-D, in all of its West Virginia stores, as well as stores in nearby states that are located within 15 miles of West Virginia's border, including Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
With the move, West Virginia has become a de facto test market for the diversion-defiant PSE formulation, because along with CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid and Fruth and soon Walgreens will all be selling similar formulations. The move sends a stern message to West Virginian methamphetamine makers to the tune of Tom Petty's "Don't come around here no more."
But West Virginia has been gearing up to put meth labs out of business for good all year long. Earlier this year, West Virginia legislators debated making pseudoephedrine-containing products prescription-only excepting formulations like Zephrex-D. And while that bill died in March, according to reports, it's clear that West Virginia is looking to uproot and eliminate clandestine methamphetamine production labs.
According to the West Virginia Gazette, West Virginia authorities seized 533 meth labs last year, a record number. Police found the clandestine labs in 45 of the state's 55 counties.
West Virginia is a NPLEx state, which is another tool the state has been using successfully to curb its methamphetamine problem. That tool has proven effective as well. According to data obtained by the Kanawha County Substance Abuse Task Force (where meth crime is traditionally the highest in the state), implementing NPLEx resulted in a 68.5% reduction in pseudoephedrine sales across the county. According to a May 22 article in the Charleston Gazette, meth lab busts statewide are down 27% January through mid-April, compared with the same period last year.
From a business perspective, the move will not preclude customers legitimately looking for congestion relief from seeking their PSE remedy. Nationwide, sales of the three top-selling pseudeophedrine products were down slightly to $322 million for the 52 weeks ended May 18, according to IRI across total U.S. multi-outlet channels. The fact is, there aren't very many heavy buyers of PSE products across the state. According to the West Virginia Gazette, only about 4% of West Virginians last year purchased more than 24 grams of PSE, the equivalent of about 10 boxes, citing the state Board of Pharmacy.
The biggest factor impacting PSE sales will remain the volatility of the cough/cold season — the more cold-stricken people there are the better these formulations (now just Zephrex-D in West Virginia) will sell.