Sheriffs say Pill Mills Use ‘Cash Loophole’ to Avoid Detection

A loophole in a national data system allows pill mills and drug abusers to avoid detection by making their transactions in cash, according to the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association.

“Currently, 93 percent of prescription drug transactions in this country go through a national data system that identifies the prescriber, the doctor and the medication,” said Steve Tanner, Raleigh County Sheriff. “However, data from the 7 percent of prescriptions paid for with cash are never submitted to this national system, which creates a ‘cash loophole’ that allows these transactions to avoid detection.

The data system is used by pharmacies to ensure third-party payment for prescriptions by private insurance or public insurance like Medicare and Medicaid. Cash transactions in which customers pay all out-of-pocket costs are not routed through the system. As a result, there is no record or information for investigators or law enforcement agencies to use when warning signs are raised.

In addition to to the data system for insurers, 41 states have prescriptiondrug monitoring system that track prescriptions for controlled substances such as painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. The goal is to prevent the misuse, abuse and diversion of the drugs.

“Most illegal prescriptions are paid for by cash,” said Greenbrier County Sheriff Jim Childers. “They come from pill mills or pharmacies who care little for who is going to be the end user.”

West Virginia sherriffs are calling on federal lawmakers to enact a policy to have cash transactions for prescription drugs routed through the national data system. Real-time alerts such as drug interactions, too high of a dosage, or too frequent filling of prescriptions would notify regulators and law enforcement officials of suspected illegal activities or dangerous health situations.

West Virginia pharmacies fill more prescriptions per capita than in any other state, according to the sheriff’s association. Over 152,000 West Virginians have prescription drug problems and drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for West Virginians under the age of 45.

According to a recent report prepared by Brandeis University for the Pew Charitable Trusts, cash transactions can be an indicator of questionable activity, such as doctor shopping.

“The Drug Enforcement Agency views cash transactions as giant red flags that signal increased likelihood of illegal behavior,” said Greenbrier County Sheriff Jim Childers.

Authored by: Elizabeth Magill

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I really have to question where this data comes from.How do They know that 152,000 citizens of West Virginia are addicted to Prescription medications? I think this is another attempt to pad the numbers to make that side of the coin look a bit worse. If that is true than 6.57% of West Virginians are addicted to prescription pain medicine? Prescription medication drug overdose being the leading cause of death in people under age 45? really? All the news articles i can find list overdose as the number 1 cause of accidental deaths. And addressing the cash cow issue. there are certain patterns that can tell if a person is doctor shopping or getting meds from pill mills. If a person has insurance, but refuses to use it, RED FLAG, but lets face facts here. 17.1 % of americans have no health insurance. americans age 18 to 25 the rate is higher at 24 percent Those that make less than $36 ,000 per year the rate is 30.5 %. So assuming that someone without insurance needs medications including Controlled medications and since they have no insurance to cover the costs, and have to pay in cash, they are abusing prescription medications? This implies that if you pay in cash you are a drug abuser. Now getting to the heart of the matter, there is a prescription drug problem in the Good old USA, and a national database that tracks all controlled substances would be a great tool to solve the problem. but with all the talk on the problem, where is the action that is fair and balanced? all the efforts to end this problem cary the consequence of leaving millions of legitimate patients suffering with severe intractable pain disorders and diseases vulnerable to a life of suffering. where is the balanced solution? I truly believe that the numbers the proponents against prescription pain medications are subjective and are not truly stating the problem. what about drug interactions? if you take out Deaths caused by drug interactions the number would be far lower what about junkies who mix street drugs with pain meds?why should pain sufferers be swept under the bus because of inaccurate data?