West Virginia has an ongoing and frustrating battle to try to keep pseudoephedrine out of the hands of drug addicts who use the key ingredient in decongestant medication to make meth.
Over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine are placed behind the pharmacy counter and buyers have to ask for it. West Virginians are limited, by law, in the amount of pseudoephedrine they can buy. Transactions are recorded in a real-time tracking system to keep buyers from going over the limit.
Still, meth labs pop up around the state like dandelions in May.
More recently, the West Virginia Legislature has debated requiring doctor's prescription for Sudafed, Claritin, Allegra and other over-the-counter allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine.
But now the pharmaceutical industry believes it has come up with at least a partial solution.
Two new drugs on the market, Nexafed and Zephrex-D, are designed to give the same relief as other decongestants, but they are engineered to make it much more difficult for meth makers to extract the pseudoephedrine.
According to Forbes magazine, "the polymers will form a gummy gel if mixed with solvents commonly used in illicit methamphetamine synthesis."
This week, Fruth Pharmacy, which owns 25 stores in West Virginia and Ohio, announced it is replacing over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine with Nexafed. Chair and Chief Executive Lynn Fruth says this is their way of addressing the drug issue.