CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The chairman of the House of Delegates health committee is asking West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to investigate how much of a common cold medication is being diverted to manufacture methampetamine.
Law enforcement agencies across the state have seized 301 illegal meth labs so far this year, 13 more than the 288 found in all of 2012.
"The statistics are piling up," said Don Perdue, D-Wayne, chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee, who requested the investigation in a letter to Morrisey last week. "This problem is getting bigger and bigger in a negative way on a daily basis."
Perdue wants Morrisey to investigate sales of pseudoephedrine, a key meth-making ingredient, and determine the percentage of the cold and allergy medicine that's being diverted for illegal meth production.
Perdue also asked Morrisey to take legal action against any drug companies "responsible for engaging in that activity in the knowledge that such sales accrues to the benefit of malefactors," according to his letter to Morrisey.
Morrisey, who received Perdue's letter Thursday, would not answer any questions about the lawmaker's request Monday.
"We just received this letter from Delegate Perdue and will be reviewing his request," said Beth Ryan, a Morrisey spokeswoman. "Until all facts are gathered, it would be premature to comment further on this matter."
Perdue said meth labs put the lives of children, families, law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics in danger. The clandestine labs' cleanup costs have increased "exponentially," he said.
"I'm hopeful the attorney general will look closely at this with an eye to do something beneficial for all citizens of West Virginia, including first responders and property owners," Perdue said Monday.
The House committee chairman's request could put Morrisey in a prickly spot.
Since taking office in mid-January, Morrisey has started numerous reviews on everything from abortion regulation to West Virginia University's sports media rights contract. But his critics have questioned whether Morrisey will ever take on the pharmaceutical industry.
Morrisey, a former Washington, D.C. lawyer and lobbyist for drug companies, received campaign contributions from pharmaceutical executives across the U.S. He defeated longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw in the November election.
Perdue said those contributions should not cloud Morrisey's investigation, if he decides to review West Virginia's meth problem.
"I would like to believe ... that the donations will not have a negative effect on his selection of activities," Perdue said.
In online posts and press releases, Morrisey has said that the attorney general's office would take on cases "through both legal opinions and legal actions ... to significantly improve West Virginia's business and regulatory climate."