CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia will soon have more powerful technology to help fight prescription drug abuse, but some state lawmakers worry that not enough doctors are using the tools they already have.
The state is working to link its prescription drug monitoring database to those in other states, in hopes of detecting "doctor shoppers" who cross borders to load up on pills. At legislators' interim monthly meetings Tuesday, state Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Dave Potters updated lawmakers on the project, called the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy InterConnect program.
Since 2002, West Virginia has had its own database, which electronically tracks every prescription filled for controlled substances such as painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. Many doctors do not check it because there is no law requiring them to do so.
"If prescribers don't check it, then it's worthless, right?" asked Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.
Potters said that was true but cautioned that lawmakers must strike a difficult balance if they want to require more of doctors and others who prescribe controlled substances.
Many doctors' offices are already overwhelmed, he said. West Virginia has a high proportion of residents who get Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and the state reimburses them at a low level to care for those patients.
Lawmakers might want to consider measures that would make prescribers check the database for new patients or in certain circumstances, Potters said.