updated 4/25/2005 7:20:35 PM ET 2005-04-25T23:20:35

All Wal-Mart stores will move many nonprescription cold and allergy medications behind pharmacy counters by June because they include an ingredient used to make the illegal stimulant methamphetamine, the company said Monday.

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The world’s largest retailer — which has nearly 4,000 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in the United States and another 1,600 international locations — will join rivals Target Corp. and Albertson’s Inc. in making such a move throughout all locations.

All three retailers are trying to make it more difficult for customers to easily obtain medications containing pseudoephedrine, which is a key component for making methamphetamine, a powerfully addictive drug. Popular over-the-counter medications such as Pfizer Inc.’s Sudafed and Sinutab and rival Schering-Plough Corp.’s Afrin nasal spray. list pseudoephedrine among their active ingredients.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which had already been making the changes, estimates that 60 percent of its stores are already selling such abused products behind the counter.

“We will continue with our plan to move the most commonly abused products containing pseudoephedrine behind the pharmacy counter in all our stores by early June,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jacquie Young. “The remaining solid dose products containing multi-ingredients will be moved behind the pharmacy counter by September.”

Wal-Mart had not previously announced a timetable for making the changes.

Young said Wal-Mart has also been in discussions with suppliers “regarding the reformulating of these products with alternative ingredients.”

The move comes as a number of states imposed restrictions on the sale of some cold medicines, which have resulted in a drop in the number of meth lab seizures. Six states allow only pharmacies to sell drugs with pseudoephedrine, and seven others make retailers lock up the products or sell them from staffed counters. Legislatures in 22 states are considering similar restrictions.

Earlier on Monday, food and drug retailer Albertson’s said it would shift the sale of some over-the-counter cold medicines to behind the pharmacy counter. The Boise, Idaho-based firm operates some 2,000 pharmacies nationwide under names such as Savon and Osco drugs.

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