The West Virginia Sheriff's Association is supporting an effort to create a national database to help fight prescription drug abuse.
Databases that track prescriptions paid for by third-party insurers such as Medicare and private insurance companies already exist.
These databases are monitored by companies referred to as pharmacy benefit managers. Third-party insurers pay them to track prescription information, said Amy Bricker, senior director of Pharma and Retail Strategy for Express Scripts.
Express Scripts is a pharmacy benefits manager and monitors prescription drug information for 6,000 pharmacies, Bricker said.
This information is tracked in the national databases, and can be used to identify "pill mills" and people obtaining prescription drugs to sell on the black market.
However, under the current system information pertaining to the prescriptions is not entered into the databases if the person pays cash for the pills, said Rudi Raynes-Kidder, executive director of the Sheriff's Association.
Representatives of the organization and several law enforcement officials held a press conference at the Kanawha County Courthouse Wednesday to show support for the passage of a federal law that would require information to be placed in the database for any purchase of prescriptions such as narcotics.
"Prescription drug abuse is destroying communities and families throughout the state," Raynes-Kidder said.
Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford pointed out that prescription drug deaths quadrupled statewide from 2001 to 2008.
Prescription painkillers cause more overdoses in West Virginia than in any other state, he said.
"Drug overdose deaths now outnumber fatal car accidents," Rutherford said.
Ninety-three percent of those obtaining prescription drugs use a third-party insurer, Rutherford said. However, the other 7 percent pay with cash, and these are the people who cause concerns.
Pill mills are unscrupulous clinics or doctors who prescribe pain medication or anti-anxiety pills to patients who do not need them.
Rutherford said doctors in pill mills often do not even examine the patient, who often requests a specific type of medication.
"And pill mills make it clear they prefer cash," Greenbrier County Sheriff Jim Childers said.