The Boone County Commission in Southern West Virginia dropped a lawsuit in a split vote Tuesday. The lawsuit, filed against six pharmacies in the region, was intended to reduce prescription drug abuse by targeting alleged “pill mill” pharmacies. After speaking with state Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, about Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s 2012 substance abuse bill, the commissioners reversed the decision they unanimously voted to approve just two weeks ago. Tomblin’s 2012 bill tightened restrictions on prescription pills.
Commissioner Eddie Hendricks, who voted to withdraw the lawsuit, said, “I just think it was done wrong. There wasn’t a great deal of evidence.” Commission President Mickey Brown said he had voted on “hearsay evidence” two weeks ago and was improperly influenced by county, state and federal investigators. “I questioned my decision,” he said. “I know these are not pill mills.” Brown said in talking to Stollings, who is also a Madison doctor, he decided the commission was going about the problem the wrong way. The pharmacists are doing their job, said Brown. “They’re not doctors; they’re not law enforcement officers. They’re there to fill prescriptions,” he added.
Hendricks and Brown say the pharmacies have a higher than average pain pill prescription volume because heavy equipment operators and coal miners working in the area are injured frequently and require medications to alleviate pain. Many elderly residents in Boone County also receive doctor prescribed painkillers because liver damage can result from over-thecounter medications, said Brown. Pain management clinics are now required to be licensed by the state under Tomblin’s 2012 substance abuse bill. The state database has also been updated under the bill to flag suspicious prescriptions as well as unusual purchases of pain pills.
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