CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Electronic drug-tracking systems like the one West Virginia adopted at the start of the year don't stop methamphetamine production or use, a former drug policy adviser in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations said Wednesday.
Keith Humphreys, now a psychiatry professor at Stanford University, said West Virginia could decrease meth making by requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine, a cold and allergy medication that's also used to manufacture meth in clandestine labs.
"Electronic tracking of cold medication sales will not reduce meth use or meth labs, but prescription-only restrictions will," Humphreys said at a behavioral health conference in Charleston.
In January, a new state law required pharmacies to report pseudoephedrine sales to a national database called NPLEx. The mandate was part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 2102 substance-abuse bill.
This year, state law enforcement agencies have seized 370 meth labs, setting a pace that's expected to double last year's total.
NPLEx has blocked about 3 percent of pseudoephedrine sales -- when customers hit monthly and yearly box limits.
"Simply counting up the amount of pseudoephedrine going out the door doesn't do anything," Humphreys said. "There's no other way to say it: It doesn't work."
On Wednesday, Humphreys cited a study that compared meth lab busts in Oregon and Kentucky. Oregon has a prescription-only law; Kentucky does not.
In Kentucky, pharmacies started reporting to NPLEx in 2008. Meth lab seizures increased from 429 that year to 1060 in 2012.
By contrast, after the prescription-only law passed in Oregon, meth lab busts declined by 96 percent.
"In Oregon, they haven't had to remove a single child from a meth lab house in seven years [since the prescription-only law passed]," Humphreys said.
In 2010 and 2011, West Virginia lawmakers killed bills that would have required prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, after drug industry representatives and retailers lobbied against the proposals.