"This is the most comprehensive bill we've ever had before us to handle a problem that has affected many families, including my own," Plymale said.
Tomblin's substance abuse legislation initially limited the amount of pseudoephedrine that consumers could buy each month to 7.5 grams -- down from 9 grams under existing state law.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee inserted an amendment that dropped the limit to 3.6 grams. The Finance Committee restored Tomblin's 7.5-gram limit Monday.
Foster, a CAMC physician, said allergy and cold sufferers don't need the higher amount.
"The 3.6 grams was enough for a legitimate purchaser," Foster said. "If it's not working, then they really need to see a doctor."
Hallie Mason, Tomblin's policy director, said the governor's bill used 7.5 grams because that's the limit for mail-order sales under federal law.
Tracking system's effectiveness questioned
The State Police's meth lab data released this week raises doubts about the NPLEx tracking system's ability to curb meth production.
Between July 1 and the end of December, 56 percent of all pseudoephedrine in West Virginia was purchased from pharmacies that already use NPLEx, or the National Precursor Log Exchange, Goff said.
So far this year, State Police have investigated 47 people suspected of operating meth labs. Eighty percent of those individuals did not exceed the state's monthly 9-gram pseudoephedrine purchase limit.
During the past year, the same 47 people made 500 pseudoephedrine purchases, according to State Police records. More than 300 of those sales (63 percent) were from pharmacies already using the NPLEx system.
Goff said the prescription-only proposal makes sense.
"If I'm in the cake-making business, and you cut off my flour supply, then I'm not going to be able to bake as many cakes," Goff said.
Lobbyists for drug companies and West Virginia retailers say the prescription-only plan would inconvenience consumers and drive up health care costs.
"The large majority of purchases in West Virginia are by law-abiding consumers who rely on these medicines for cold and allergy relief," said Sam Minardi, a lobbyist for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "If [pseudoephedrine] is made prescription-only, law enforcement will lose the ability to identify individuals making illegal purchases."
Minardi defended the NPLEx tracking system, saying it will become more successful as additional states sign on to use it. Virginia recently became the 22nd state to adopt electronic monitoring of pseudoephedrine sales.
"While we are pleased some pharmacies already use electronic blocking technology, the real benefit of the system is based on the strength of mandatory participation both within the state and in neighboring states," Minardi said. "Because the system identifies the location, date, and time of purchase, this type of criminal activity could be easily identified by law enforcement if NPLEx were implemented statewide"
Tomblin's substance abuse bill will be on amendment stage on the Senate floor today.
Also Monday, senators passed a bill (SB212) that makes it a felony offense to disrupt emergency communications and public utility services. Violators would face a maximum fine of $10,000 and a 10-year prison sentence.
Frontier has reported a recent rash of copper-wire telephone cable thefts in West Virginia. Some of those thefts have caused phone outages and disrupted emergency communications.
The Senate also passed legislation (SB514) that classifies retail shops with roll-your-own cigarette machines as manufacturers. The bill would require the operators of some 13 outlets around the state to collect the equivalent of the 55-cent per pack state cigarette tax on every 20 cigarettes produced by cigarette rolling machines in the stores.
The House of Delegates will next take up both bills.
Also Monday, senators rejected a proposal -- offered by state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph -- that would have required mothers with babies to use "discretion" when nursing in public.
Senators turned down Barnes' amendment to the "child's right to nurse" bill (SB4) on a voice vote.
The legislation, which advanced in the Senate on second reading, allows mothers to breastfeed "in any location, public or private, where mother and child are authorized to be."
West Virginia has the third lowest breast-feeding rate in the United States, according to a study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gazette staff writer Phil Kabler contributed to this report. Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.