CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Southridge Walmart is no longer West Virginia's top seller of cold medicines that criminals use to manufacture highly-addictive methamphetamine in clandestine labs.
In August, the Walmart in South Charleston reported 1,851 sales transactions for cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient. That was almost double the sales of any store in the state.
The Southridge store's sales dropped to 624 boxes in September, and 212 boxes in October -- an 88 percent decrease over two months, according to data from an electronic tracking system called NPLEx.
Walmart's South Charleston location now ranks No. 61 in West Virginia for pseudoephedrine sales.
"I'm absolutely pleased," said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, who set up a task force that's looking into the county's meth lab problem. "And I haven't seen any people having sneezing and coughing fits and falling over up at Southridge."
After the first week of September, the Southridge Walmart stopped selling Sudafed 12 Hour, a highly sought-after meth-making medication that has pseudoephedrine as its only active ingredient, according to the NPLEx data. Meth cooks demand single-ingredient pseudoephedrine because it yields potent meth without byproducts.
The South Charleston Walmart still sells cold medicines, such as Claritin-D, Advil Cold and Sinus, and Allegra-D, which combine pseudoephedrine with other ingredients. Meth makers don't typically buy the combination products because they include pain relievers and antihistamines.
On Tuesday, Danit Marquardt, a Walmart corporate spokeswoman, denied that the South Charleston store changed its pseudoephedrine inventory.
"There have been no changes to our assortment," Marquardt said.
The Charleston Gazette spoke to two pharmacy technicians at the Southridge Walmart this week. Both pharmacy employees said the store stopped selling Sudafed -- the most sought-after meth-making medicine -- in September.
The Walmart in South Charleston now only sells one single-ingredient pseudoephedrine product, Nexafed, a tamper-resistant medication, they said. Meth cooks cannot make the illegal drug with Nexafed.
In August, the South Charleston store sold hundreds of boxes of Sudafed 12 Hour, according to NPLEx data. The Walmart's Sudafed sales made up more than half of all pseudoephedrine purchases that month.
Since Sept. 8, customers have purchased three boxes of Sudafed at the South Charleston Walmart, the sales data shows.