CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The State Sheriffs Association is asking the federal government to close a "prescription pill loophole" that fails to track cash payments made to pharmacists.
The sheriffs want to know who's paying with cash in hopes of identifying the users and doctors contributing to the prescription pill abuse epidemic in the state.
Prescription pills paid with insurance are logged into a system that could be used to track the cash payments, they said.
However, there are state systems already monitoring those transactions and it's a matter of dispute if police's access to it would violate federal health privacy laws, said Richard Stevens, executive director of the West Virginia Pharmacist Association.
Rudi Raynes-Kidder, executive director of the State Sheriffs Association, held a press conference Wednesday asking the federal government to change how Pharmacy Benefit Manager works. PBMs are third-party administrators that process and pay for prescription drug claims in real-time. Cash payments are not entered into the system.
Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said he's heard of cases in which one person paying with cash got the same prescription filled multiple times and then held a "pill party."
If cash payments were entered into the PBM system, the pharmacist would be notified instantly that a prescription has already been filled, said Amy Bricker, executive director of Express Scripts, one of the nation's largest PBMs.
Bricker said the pharmacist would then notify police about possible fraud. About 40 states have PBM systems and all are in favor of adding the cash payments to the already existing procedures, she said.
Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner said sheriffs need access to those paying with cash to identify the abusers. The data also will also show which doctors are writing too many prescriptions for controlled substances, he said.
The West Virginia Pharmacists Association maintains the state's PBM system. Stevens was not at the press conference but heard about it on the radio. He said his group is in favor of creating a real-time way to track cash payments but there's no technology in place to support it. Cash payments are tracked on a 24-hour time scale, he said.