So far, eight states including West Virginia have signed up for the national data-sharing program. Nearly 20 others plan to join the electronic hub.
Potters also explained that some states take a "proactive" approach to prescription drug monitoring programs. Those states use their databases to flag patterns of unusual prescribing and potential doctor shopping.
West Virginia's system is not proactive. Police and the state medical and pharmacy boards only can access the system during open investigations.
The medical community believes that more providers need to use the database, but a "one-size-fits-all mandate" is not the solution, said state Sen. Evan Jenkins, a Cabell County Democrat who is also executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association.
Jenkins sponsored legislation that went into effect this month, requiring all pharmacies to have Internet access so their staff can check the state database.
"There's no question we're moving in a direction of making the database more proactive," Jenkins said after the committee meeting. "We have come a long way in a couple years. We have a long way to go."
There is a fine line between fighting West Virginia's prescription drug abuse epidemic and burdening people who legitimately need powerful medications, he said.
"Nobody wants the end-of-life cancer patient who's 80 years old and who's receiving high doses of pain medications to get a knock on their door from a law-enforcement agent to find out why they're receiving these medications," he said.Reach Alison Knezevich at alis...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.