After the pharmacy board's advisory committee establishes database search criteria used to identify unscrupulous doctors and prescription drug abusers, a separate "review committee" will pass along information about suspicious prescriptions and purchases to law enforcement authorities.
West Virginians on average receive 2.5 prescriptions per year for narcotic drugs -- one of the highest rates in the nation.
Currently, 15 State Police officers and regional drug taskforces have access to the state's controlled substance monitoring database.
Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas told lawmakers Monday that sheriff departments also would like to be able to tap the system. Deputies can request prescription drug data, but they must do so through State Police or a drug taskforce member.
McComas said many rural sheriff offices don't have deputies on regional taskforces.
"More than 30 people should have access," said McComas, who also serves as president of the West Virginia Sheriffs Association. "We're asking for another tool to help serve the people in our communities."
State Police Cpl. Wendy Comer warned lawmakers that wide-open access to the controlled substance database could lead to numerous problems and improperly target people who obtain painkillers for legitimate health issues -- or doctors with valid reasons for prescribing narcotics.
"The more people who have access to it, the more chances of misuse," Comer said. "It's just a tool. They have to have a reasonable suspicion to run someone's name."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.