CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Following a sharp increase of methamphetamine lab busts in Lewisburg, City Council members want state lawmakers to pass a bill that would require a doctor's prescription to purchase a cold medication that's used to cook meth.
Last week, the Lewisburg City Council put its request in a resolution, saying that sales of the sinus medication pseudoephedrine have been linked to a significant increase in meth lab seizures in Greenbrier County and the rest of West Virginia this year.
The resolution states that meth "destroys public health, adds to crime and destroys families."
"We need to continue to be vigilant on this thing and pay attention to what is ruining people's lives," Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester said Wednesday.
Council members acknowledged that curbing access to pseudoephedrine wouldn't necessarily stop meth abuse, but the prescription requirement "could have a huge impact in reducing crimes, burns, toxic waste and other problems associated with meth labs," according to the resolution.
Within the past two months, Lewisburg police have seized five meth labs -- more than were discovered in all of last year, the mayor said.
In Greenbrier County, law enforcement agencies reported 11 meth lab busts from January through June 30, according to West Virginia State Police data.
Statewide, police have seized more than 300 of the clandestine labs, setting a pace that could double last year's total.
"You start to wonder if this is the tip of the iceberg, and if it's going to be something bigger than we thought," Manchester said.
State lawmakers have twice introduced legislation -- in 2011 and 2012 -- to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, better known under brand names such as Sudafed, Actifed and Claritin-D, but legislators rejected both bills after drug industry and retail store representatives lobbied against the proposals.
Lewisburg officials hope similar bills are introduced during the next legislative session, which starts in January.
"It's a statewide problem," Manchester said. "It needs to be looked at on a statewide basis."
In January, West Virginia pharmacies started reporting pseudoephedrine sales through a computerized tracking system called NPLEx. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 2012 substance-abuse bill mandated the system, which drug industry lobbyists promised would curb methamphetamine production.
However, Kanawha County Deputy Sheriff Mike Rutherford said NPLEx hasn't helped deputies find any meth labs. About 100 labs have been reported in Kanawha County this year -- five times more than in any other county in West Virginia.
NPLEx blocks people from purchasing pseudoephedrine once they reach monthly and yearly limits set by state law.