Jan 24 (Reuters) - Rite Aid Corp will pay $4 million to resolve a U.S. Department of Justice criminal probe into the improper sale of pseudoephedrine, an ingredient often used to make the stimulant methamphetamine, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The settlement resolves claims that Rite Aid's training and procedures led employees in West Virginia to believe they could refuse to sell pseudoephedrine only if they thought customers were exceeding specified purchase limits, not if they thought customers wanted to make methamphetamine.
While pseudoephedrine is used in cold medicines such as Sudafed, federal law restricts its sale to prevent illegal uses.
Methamphetamine can boost energy and curb appetite, but has been linked to adverse effects such as aggression, anxiety, insomnia and strokes.
Rite Aid has accepted responsibility for improper pseudoephedrine sales in West Virginia from January 2009 to October 2012, and taken steps to prevent abuse, according to U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart in Charleston, West Virginia.
The $4 million represents 80 percent of Rite Aid's gross sales of pseudoephedrine over that time period in West Virginia. It will be distributed to that state's Victims Compensation Fund and Department of Health and Human Services.
"For many years Rite Aid has had in place robust and extensive internal controls designed to ensure full compliance with the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act," a law from 2005, Rite Aid said in a statement. "Rite Aid is fully committed to its ongoing partnership with law enforcement and government in combating drug abuse."
The Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based company is in the process of selling 1,932 stores to larger rival Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, after the chains were unable last year to win approval from antitrust regulators to merge. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)