The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


October 5, 2012

Shut it down


There’s a “cash loophole” in the battle to combat prescription drug abuse according to the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association, who spoke out on the issue in a press conference Wednesday.

It wants federal lawmakers to come up with a policy that would track cash transactions for controlled substances.

If it helps take illegal prescription drugs off the streets of southern West Virginia, it’s a good policy and we’re on board.

The sheriffs are out on the streets facing this epidemic every day. We should listen to them on this issue.

While cash-only transactions amount to an estimated 7 percent of the dollars spent on prescriptions, it is still a significant amount of sales.

About 93 percent of prescription drug transactions in the United States — noncash transactions — go through a national data system that identifies the prescriber, the doctor and the medication.

A recent study found that cash transactions can be an indicator of questionable activity, such as doctor shopping, according to Greenbrier County Sheriff Jim Childers. “The Drug Enforcement Agency views cash transactions as giant red flags that signal increased likelihood of illegal behavior,” he added.

Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said between 2001 and 2008, drug deaths quadrupled statewide. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for West Virginians under age 45. Pharmacies fill more prescriptions per capita in West Virginia than in any other state and prescription painkillers cause more overdoses here than any other state.

To say that these statistics are alarming is an understatement. Let’s hope we’re awakened to this alarm, and ready to do everything we can to fight a battle that is threatening our communities, our economy — and most of all our children.

West Virginia laws can only go so far. Tying into a national database is necessary.

We must pull out every weapon at our disposal to battle the drug epidemic.

And make sure no stone is left unturned.

Or any loophole exposed.

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