Big pharmaceutical companies are raking in a cool $3 billion a year selling products like Sudafed (Johnson & Johnson), Advil Cold & Sinus (Pfizer), Allegra D (Sanofi), and Claritin D (Johnson & Johnson).
What do these products have in common?
They all contain pseudoephedrine.
They are sold over the counter.
And much of them are being used, not to relieve stuffy noses, but instead to illegally make methamphetamine. Pseudoephedrine is the necessary pharmaceutical ingredient to make meth.
Meth is a highly addictive drug that is devastating West Virginia. West Virginia Police statistics indicate that meth lab incidents have doubled this year over last.
We'll know for sure at the end of the year, but it could be that West Virginia is again shooting to the top in a very bad category -- meth lab incidents.
West Virginia and Mississippi are linked in the public mind as being states with high rates of poverty -- and high rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, binge drinking -- and meth labs.
But Mississippi recently took a public health measure that crippled its meth problem.
Mississippi joined Oregon in requiring that all pseudoephedrine purchases require a prescription from a doctor.
Why can't we do that here in West Virginia?
Because the pharmaceutical industry doesn't want to lose sales.
A recent Journal of the American Medical Association analysis estimates that anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of all pseudoephedrine sold in the United States is used to make meth.
So, if pseudoephedrine is put on prescription, the industry stands to lose anywhere from $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion.
It's all about profits for Big Pharma?
"I absolutely believe that," said Don Perdue (D-Wayne) last week. "I believe the industry is protecting its assets at the expense of the physical well-being of the rest of the public."
In 2011, Perdue, a retired pharmacist, introduced legislation, similar to that in Oregon and Mississippi, that would put pseudoephedrine on prescription.