W.Va. Sheriffs Want Cash Loophole Closed in Prescription Drug Purchases

By: Brooks Jarosz Email
By: Brooks Jarosz Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Sheriff's Association is concerned about a cash loophole in prescription medication and says it has a plan to curb the pushing of pills.

Sheriffs are calling for a change in the law to track those who are paying for prescriptions with cash.

Pharmacies in West Virginia fill more prescriptions than any other state and drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among West Virginians under 45 years of age, according to recent statistics.

Officials want to lower the amount of prescription drug abuse and pills on the street by tracking what's being bought and who's prescribing it.

Deputies say the prescription for abuse that's on the rise begins at the doctor's office.

"The things that we should be able to control the very easiest is the very thing that's costing us lives," Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner said. "One person a day in our community dies, and this is what we have to stop."

Doctor shopping and pill mills is typically the source for the drugs distributed at the family pharmacy. The system does track the 93 percent with insurance. However, it does not track the 7 percent who pay with cash. That creates a loophole, according to police.

"It's not going to get any better until we start getting very active, very proactive," Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said. "Prescription medication is a horrible problem in this state."

For example, police say if you take your prescription for pain killers to one pharmacy, get it filled and pay with cash and then walk down to street to another pharmacy, they would have no record it was just filled. Police say many times a person will claim they lost their prescription and the pharmacist will confirm with the doctor that the patient needs it filled. Then, they will get two times the amount of pills and sell or abuse them.

"Right now, there's no way to prevent it," Tanner said. "When they pay cash they're virtually undetectable."

To close the loophole, deputies want a change in the law. One that would require patients, their prescriptions, and their doctor be entered into a database at the pharmacy, giving law enforcement the tools to track and look for trends.

"It's a win-win for everybody," Sheriff Tanner said. "We can save lives, we can track data in real-time, we can get law enforcement involved early-on and it costs practically nothing to implement."

Pushing for passage, not just statewide but nationwide to stop the pipeline of pills, police hope new laws on the books could help nab drug dealers before they ever hit the street.

Officials say a high rate of drugs come to West Virginia from Ohio and Kentucky and if laws aren't passed nationwide, they would expect more drug crimes happening in those states.

Pharmacies are on board with the proposal to prevent pushing pills. A campaign was launched to spread the word to neighboring states.

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