CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two years ago in Mississippi, lawmakers passed a bill that required a prescription for a cold medicine that's also used to make methamphetamine. The result: Meth lab busts went down.
In Arkansas, pharmacists are now required to counsel customers before they can buy cold medications containing pseudoephedrine. Meth lab numbers dropped.
In Kentucky, a new law reduced the number of boxes of pseudoephedrine people can buy each year. Meth lab seizures declined there, too.
On Tuesday, the vice president of the National Narcotic Officers' Association told a Kanawha County substance-abuse task force that several states are taking steps to reduce the scourge of meth labs.
"Pseudoephedrine access, uncontrolled, means more meth labs," said Sgt. Jason Grellner, who also heads the Franklin County, Mo., Narcotics Enforcement Unit.
The 15-member Kanawha task force is examining ways to reduce the number of meth labs. Law enforcement agencies have seized 373 labs statewide this year, a record-setting number. In Kanawha County alone, officers have busted more than 100 of the clandestine labs since January.
U.S. pseudoephedrine imports doubled between 2005 and 2010, and not because Americans were suffering from more head colds and allergies, Grellner said. Instead, criminals use the medication -- known under brand names such as Sudafed and Claritin-D -- to cook meth.
"This country is importing gross amounts of pseudoephedrine for meth labs," Grellner said.
In Missouri, some cities and counties have adopted ordinances that require people to get a doctor's prescription for pseudoephedrine products. In those communities, sales of the cold and allergy medication have dropped 96 percent, Grellner said.
In Arkansas, large pharmacies, such as Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, established store polices to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only, after the state passed a law that requires a pharmacist's consultation to buy the medication. The larger pharmacies sell hundreds of boxes of pseudoephedrine a month.
"It was hard for the large stores to conform with the law and meet the consultation requirement," Grellner said, "so they now require a prescription."