CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Drug abuse and its illegal production have posed significant challenges for the state of West Virginia over the years. While substance abuse and the problems it causes is a scourge across the country, this issue took center stage in our state during the just completed legislative session.
As president of the West Virginia Retailers Association, I am proud to offer my appreciation to Gov. Tomblin for his leadership in passing Senate Bill 437. This comprehensive substance abuse legislation implements responsible policies regarding access to narcotics used by prescription drug abusers -- effectively placing tighter standards of care on a prescriber's ability to prescribe medications and a consumer's ability to access them.
During the discussion on SB 437, there was much debate over the issue of meth production and use. As we all know, meth is a highly addictive drug that can take a tremendous toll on users and their loved ones. This legislation calls for the implementation real-time, stop-sale technology to block illegal sales of pseudoephedrine (PSE) products, which can be used to manufacture meth, while providing law enforcement with the tools to track and arrest offenders.
Up to now, West Virginia retailers have worked to comply with the old, handwritten system of tracking PSE sales with a sign-in logbook at the store counter. This new tracking system -- known as the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) -- offers a far more sophisticated system. Working much like a credit card transaction, it provides a pharmacist needed information to immediately block purchases for individuals that exceed their PSE purchasing limit.
Pharmacy employees will no longer have to make a determination. All purchases will automatically be run through the system alleviating customer apprehension when asking for PSE products. Because NPLEx records the data from every purchase and attempted purchase, it is also a tool for law enforcement officials who can use the data to track down individuals who may be buying PSE products for illegal use.
Not only does this technology prevent unlawful sales of PSE, it also protects law-abiding consumers' access to many over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines. Thus, the criminals who are the cause of West Virginia's meth problem can be identified, while consumers can continue to receive the best health care possible.
West Virginia businesses will also benefit from such a targeted approach. Unlike the prescription-only model some lawmakers had advocated, with SB 437, West Virginia workers will be able to obtain the medicines they depend on without having to take time off from work to visit a doctor and pick up a prescription.
I hope that others will join me in thanking Gov. Tomblin for his true leadership on this important issue. As a businesswoman, I know that this new law makes West Virginia's future brighter, and as a parent, I am grateful that our state will be safer from the scourge of meth abuse and production.
Lambert is president of the West Virginia Retailers Association.