Lawmaker wants probe into meth lab issue

CHARLESTON – A House of Delegates leader is seeking Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s help in efforts to combat methamphetamine labs.

Health and Human Resources Committee chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, has asked Morrisey to investigate sales of pseudoephedrine, a common cold medication that is an ingredient in the manufacture of meth.

Perdue made the request in a letter sent to Morrisey last week. He also asked the attorney general to take any legal action against drug companies that make the cold medication while knowing it’s diverted to make meth.

“The manufacturers and sellers of PSE are damaging not only the health of West Virginians, but our business climate as well,” Perdue wrote.

Perdue told the Charleston Gazette ( that he hopes Morrisey will go after companies that manufacture pseudoephedrine the same as former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who sued tobacco companies and manufacturers of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

Perdue said drug makers and retail pharmacies “certainly must know” that pseudoephedrine is being used to make meth. He cited law enforcement officers’ statements that up to 80 percent of the cold medication is being diverted to the manufacture of meth.

About 300 meth labs have been seized by law enforcement in West Virginia so far this year, compared to 288 in all of 2012.

“I’m hopeful the attorney general will look closely at this with an eye to do something beneficial for all citizens of West Virginia, including first responders and property owners,” Perdue told the newspaper on Monday.

“We need to look outside the box to resolve this problem,” Perdue said, “or this problem will be buried in a box that’s six feet underground.”

Morrisey spokeswoman Beth Ryan told the newspaper that the attorney general’s office will review the request. She said it’s premature to comment further.

Wide-ranging substance abuse legislation approved in 2012 requires retail pharmacies to subscribe to an electronic tracking system called the National Precursor Log Exchange, or NPLEx. The measure also limits the number of pseudoephedrine boxes people can buy each month and year.

Police say meth makers are hiring people, called “smurfers,” to buy the cold medication for them.

Perdue said West Virginia isn’t seeing the tracking system’s promised benefits.