CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An organization representing over-the-counter drug companies says making pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug will not solve West Virginia's methamphetamine problem.
Instead, representatives of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association say the state should employ a multi-faceted approach that includes educating the public about the dangers of meth, handing down harsher punishments for convicted meth makers and their "smurfers," as well as making better use of the state's pseudoephedrine sales tracking system.
Pseudoephedrine is an ingredient common in nasal decongestants, available in pill or liquid form. There are more than a dozen brand names including Sudafed, Claritin-D and Zyrtec-D, but also more than 50 generic versions.
While it is possible to make methamphetamine without pseudoephedrine, it is much more difficult.
Earlier this year West Virginia joined 29 other states in tracking pseudoephedrine sales through the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx).
The system is meant to track sales of the decongestant in real time, blocking people from purchasing more than the legal limit.
Local law enforcement officials have expressed doubt about NPLEx's effectiveness, however, saying meth makers often get around the system by hiring "smurfers" to purchase pseudoephedrine in their stead.
"I think it's intellectually dishonest to say it's not working," said Carlos Gutierrez, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association's director of state government relations. "Law enforcement doesn't have to do a thing and it still works."
According to NPLEx data, the system stopped sales of 9,965 pseudoephedrine boxes in the first six months of this year. That's about 3 percent of the total 236,033 boxes sold in the state during that time.
"That means there are a lot of meth labs that didn't happen," Gutierrez said.
Local law enforcement officials aren't so optimistic. Kanawha Chief Deputy Mike Rutherford told the Daily Mail earlier this month the county could see a record year for meth busts but, as far as he knows, not a single bust has come as a result of NPLEx information.