CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Southridge Walmart's sales of a cold and allergy medication that's also used to manufacture illegal methamphetamine have nearly tripled since January, according to data released by a Kanawha County task force this week.
The Walmart at Southridge Centre sold 564 boxes of pseudoephedrine -- known under brand names such as Allegra-D, Claritin-D and Sudafed -- last January. Sales increased steadily throughout the year to a high of 1,653 boxes last month.
Over the same eight months, total pseudoephedrine sales at all Kanawha County pharmacies dropped 18 percent, according to data from a new statewide tracking system called NPLEx.
"It's like those folks shifted their business," said Dr. Dan Foster, chairman of the Kanawha County Commission's "Meth Task Force" that's investigating the illegal use of pseudoephedrine to make meth in clandestine labs.
Kanawha County law enforcement agencies have seized more than 100 meth labs this year, a record number. Meanwhile, Kanawha pharmacies have sold more boxes of pseudoephedrine to customers on a per-capita basis than any county in West Virginia. Pseudoephedrine is a key meth-making ingredient.
The Southridge Walmart sold 10 times more pseudoephedrine than its stores in Nitro and Quincy, according to the data.
The nearby Target store, located along Corridor G in South Charleston, sold 123 boxes of pseudoephedrine last month.
Bridget Lambert, executive director of the West Virginia Retailers Association, said the Walmart at Southridge has the highest overall merchandise sales volume in the county, so it stands to reason that the store would be the No. 1 seller of pseudoephedrine.
"Just the volume of their customer base supports that," Lambert said. "It's the volume of people who go there and the store's location as to why they are where they are."
Lambert added that the start of allergy season in August likely led to the spike in pseudoephedrine sales at the Southridge Walmart.
"This is allergy season in West Virginia," she said.
A Walmart spokeswoman would not comment Wednesday.
Other Kanawha County stores with high sales included Rite Aids in Kanawha City (739 boxes in August), South Charleston (648 boxes) and on Charleston's West Side (592 boxes). Those sales numbers mostly held steady or declined slightly throughout the year.