CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's task force on substance abuse is recommending West Virginians be required to get a doctor's prescription before they can buy cold medications that contain an ingredient used to make illegal methamphetamine in clandestine labs.
The Governor's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to support legislation that would make medicines with pseudoephedrine prescription-only drugs.
West Virginia law enforcement agencies have seized more than 463 meth labs across the state this year -- a record number. Criminals use pseudoephedrine products, such as Sudafed, to manufacture meth.
"There's empirical evidence that going prescription reduces the number of meth labs," said the Rev. James Patterson, who sits on Tomblin's task force and heads the Partnership of African American Churches. "We need to reduce the number of meth labs we're finding in West Virginia."
The pseudoephedrine prescription requirement is one of a dozen recommendations the substance-abuse advisory council plans to forward to Tomblin's office as part of a report in December. The council's reports in 2011 and 2012 didn't include a recommendation to make the cold medicine a prescription drug.
On Wednesday, council members voted on numerous proposals to combat substance abuse. The prescription-only requirement for pseudoephedrine seemed to get the most votes.
Department of Health and Human Resources officials refused to release vote totals after Wednesday's meeting.
House health committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, plans to introduce legislation to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only. He praised the council's action.
"That's good news. Actually, it's great news," Perdue said after the meeting. "It shows that people trying to do something about substance abuse believe this is a priority item."
Some council members said they changed their minds -- and now support the prescription requirement -- over the past year.