Doctors and pharmacists use the system to detect doctor shoppers. Police use it to investigate drug trafficking and pill mills.
Each state has different laws on who can get into the database, and InterConnect will make sure the linked system follows those rules, Potters said.
In West Virginia, police have access to the database only if they have a court order to do so, or are a member of a drug task force. In some states, any sheriff or sheriff's deputy can check out the program, Potters said.
"[InterConnect] is supposed to respect each state's laws," Potters said. "It won't be carte blanche access."
Sgt. M.T. Smith of the West Virginia State Police's Bureau of Criminal Investigations called the state's database "probably one of the most successful programs as far as pharmaceutical diversion that has ever been implemented."
Before West Virginia's database launched in 2002, he said, police had to drive to different pharmacies to gather records.
"What used to take months, now takes a matter of minutes," he said.
Still, West Virginia health providers aren't required to check the database when filling or writing prescriptions. Some "are turning a blind eye" to drug abuse, said Smith, who wants more doctors and pharmacists to take advantage of West Virginia's existing technology.
"It would be great [to share data with other states]," Smith said, "but at the same time, until we get everybody using it in this state, that's a second priority."
Leonard of Drug Emporium said it's up to each pharmacist to use his or her professional judgment on how often to tap into the database. Some pharmacists check the system for every customer. Others only use the system when they're suspicious. These days, many pharmacists are suspicious of just about everybody, Leonard said.
"It's really very discouraging, because we've allowed individuals who basically play the system to color our perception of people who are in legitimate chronic-pain situations," he said. "That's a pretty sad situation."
Still, Leonard called the system a "tremendous tool" for thwarting drug diversion.
People determined to get their pills can be argumentative at the pharmacy counter, he said.
"When you didn't have access to all the records, it was difficult to stand your ground," he said. "From that perspective, knowledge is power."
Reach Alison Knezevich at alis...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.