CHARLESTON, W.Va.--A substance abuse task force set up by the Kanawha County Commission recommended the state Legislature require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient for illicit meth labs.
Kanawha County Substance Abuse Task Force chairman Dr. Dan Foster presented a list of 13 suggestions to the state Legislature's joint health committee at an interim meeting on Wednesday.
The list included recommendations on everything from a "Good Samaritan" law offering some immunity for people seeking treatment for an overdose, to expanding state drug courts to include misdemeanor offenders.
But most of the talk at the meeting dealt with pseudoephedrine.
The substance is commonly found in cold and allergy medicines like Sudafed, Claritin-D and Allegra-D. It currently is a schedule five drug, kept behind pharmacy counters and only sold to customers that show proper identification.
But the task force recommends making it a schedule four substance, which would require a doctor or nurse practitioner's prescription to buy the drug.
"It doesn't appear that what we've done already is working very well," Foster said.
He said the National Precursor Log Exchange, a pseudoephedrine tracking system that went live in all state pharmacies last January, hasn't worked to stop meth makers.
"Our meth lab numbers are going up," he said.
He said requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine has been successful in reducing meth labs in Oregon and Mississippi, as well as municipalities in Missouri and Tennessee.
Foster said lawmakers shouldn't expect a new prescription-only law would eliminate meth labs entirely, however.
"They haven't done that in Oregon, they haven't done that in Mississippi. But they've dramatically reduced it," he said.
Requiring prescriptions also would not stop meth use, Foster said, because only about 20 percent of methamphetamine is manufactured in the United States. The rest comes from Mexico.
But he said making it more difficult to purchase pseudoephedrine would decrease the number of meth labs, and free up law enforcement resources and money to investigate other aspects of the drug trade.
State Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, asked why the task force did not recommend banning pseudoephedrine for criminals convicted of meth-related crimes.
Foster said the group didn't disagree with such a ban, but believes requiring prescriptions for everyone would be a more effective method of tackling meth labs.