CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two months before the start of West Virginia's legislative session, a drug industry trade group has started an advertising and letter-writing campaign designed to thwart proposals that would require a prescription for a cold medication that's also used to make methamphetamine in clandestine labs.
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents over-the-counter drug manufacturers, rolled out ads this week on Charleston-area news websites. The Washington, D.C., trade group also has set up its own website, Twitter account and Facebook page.
The "Stop Meth, Not Meds" website includes a mechanism for sending a form letter to legislators, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who lobbied for drug distributors before taking office in January.
The letter urges state officials to reject legislation that would make cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine -- sold under brand names such as Sudafed, Claritin-D, and Aleve-D -- prescription-only.
"We know families rely on cold, sinus, and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine for relief, and we provide them with a platform to voice their opposition to prescription legislation," said Elizabeth Funderburk, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
Across West Virginia, law enforcement agencies have seized more than 370 meth labs so far this year, topping last year's total of 288. Meth cooks use pseudoephedrine to manufacture the illegal drug. Meth labs have caused fires, exposed children to dangerous fumes and forced municipalities to pay expensive cleanup costs.
House health committee Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and Sen. Greg Tucker, D-Nicholas, have said they would introduce bills that would ban drug stores from selling pseudoephedrine unless customers have a doctor's prescription. Oregon and Mississippi have such a law, and meth lab busts have dropped significantly in those states.
Perdue, a retired pharmacist, said Wednesday that his office already has received several form letters generated by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association website. He expects the trade group to intensify its lobbying over the next several months.
"This isn't unexpected at all," Perdue said. "They're protecting their wallet with one hand now. Pretty soon, they'll be using both hands."
The drug industry trade group says prescription-only laws punish law-abiding cold and allergy sufferers. The group's website praises West Virginia lawmakers for passing a substance abuse bill in 2012 that establishes a pseudoephedrine tracking system called NPLEx.