CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating West Virginia Rite Aid stores and their sales of cold medications used to make methamphetamine in clandestine labs.
"Rite Aid is aware of an investigation and is fully cooperating with the government," said Ashley Flower, a Rite Aid spokeswoman.
The DEA's Tactical Diversion Unit recently requested scores of records from the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy dating back to 2006. The electronic records document Rite Aid's sales of pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient.
"They asked for historical data. It was a lot of information," said Mike Goff, a pharmacy board administrator who oversees the state's controlled-substance monitoring program. "They apparently found some questionable Sudafed sales."
The DEA requested the Rite Aid sales data last month, after The Charleston Gazette reported that several Rite Aid stores were among the top sellers of pseudoephedrine products in West Virginia. Pseudoephedrine is sold under brand names such as Sudafed and Allegra D.
Rite Aid's Kanawha City store has sold more than 7,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine this year, the second-highest total in the state, according to an electronic tracking system data. For several months, the Kanawha City Rite Aid was selling six times the number of boxes of pseudoephedrine as a CVS pharmacy in the same neighborhood four blocks away.
The South Charleston Rite Aid ranks fourth in pseudoephedrine sales in West Virginia this year, with more than 6,900 boxes sold.
Rite Aid stores in Belle and on Charleston's West Side also rank in the top 10. The Cross Lanes Rite Aid had the 11th-highest pseudoephedrine sales total.
Rite Aid, which has 104 stores in West Virginia, sold more 123,500 boxes of pseudoephedrine, more than any other pharmacy in the state this year. Walmart's 37 stores in West Virginia have sold 104,000 boxes.
Last year, a former Rite Aid pharmacist told a legislative committee that the chain drugstore awarded bonuses to pharmacists in West Virginia based on pseudoephedrine sales. Pharmacists alleged that Rite Aid dedicated specific cash registers for sales of the cold medicine. Rite Aid has denied the allegations.
"Rite Aid does not award bonuses to pharmacists or pharmacy techs based on pseudoephedrine sales," Flower said. "Rite Aid does provide bonuses to pharmacists based upon overall store performance metrics."
David Potters, executive director of the state pharmacy board, said DEA agents didn't disclose what allegations they're investigating.