CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Within weeks, West Virginia plans to start testing an upgraded database that will be used to crack down on prescription drug abuse across the state.
The database of 30 million records will help law enforcement identify people who obtain large quantities of narcotic drugs, and doctors who over-prescribe controlled substances such as OxyContin and Lortab.
The drug monitoring system will be up and running by March, state lawmakers learned during a joint House-Senate interim committee meeting Monday.
A state advisory committee is establishing how the database will be used to investigate possible prescription drug diversion crimes. The committee will set up database search criteria to identify "red flags" -- signs that narcotic drugs are being prescribed or purchased illegally.
"They will be coming up with the parameters, the outliers, the [doctors] that are clearly over-prescribing," said Mike Goff, who administers the controlled substance monitoring program at the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy.
Last year, state lawmakers passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's sweeping substance abuse reform bill. The legislation included changes to the controlled substances database.
The records include the names of patients, doctors and pharmacists, as well as drug quantities.
Under the new law, people who have prescriptions filled must present a government-issued photo ID at pharmacies, making it more difficult to use fake names. The controlled substance monitoring system also now tracks customers' payment methods.
"This is getting a little more information into the system," said David Potters, the pharmacy board's executive director. "We're been working to add the additional [data] fields. The new system is supposed to be set up to do data-driven searches."
The system is separate from the new multi-state "NPLEX" system that tracks pseudoephredine sales. The popular allergy and cold medication is also used to manufacture methamphetamine.