Local News

January 7, 2011

Lawmakers may monitor use of medications

The General Assembly may be taking a look in your medicine chest.

Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, said Thursday he will introduce legislation this year to battle “pill mills.”

“We don’t have a searchable database that sheriffs and law enforcement can go in and see who has been buying meth products and who has been buying an excessive amount of pills,” Weldon said at the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce’s Good Morning Dalton breakfast.

“We’ve got a problem going up and down I-75, and our kids are being exposed to a lot of pharmaceutical drugs. We need to limit that,” Weldon said.

He said the database would include the names of those who buy over-the-counter medications that can be used to make methamphetamine as well as those who buy prescription drugs.

Weldon said law enforcement officials will not need a warrant to search the database but they will not have “unfettered” access to medical records.

“It will have a limited scope. We are working on that. We are going to make sure there’s no violations of privacy for law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said such a database would “be a big plus” for law enforcement.

State Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, said he supports the concept of a database but his idea of how it would work differed from Weldon’s.

“My understanding of it is that it would be aimed at pharmacists,” Bethel said.

The idea, he said, is that pharmacists would be able to see what prescriptions patients are getting filled elsewhere and spot those who may be filling prescriptions from multiple doctors or those who may be getting excessive amounts of prescription drugs.

“I’m hesitant to say that law enforcement absolutely shouldn’t have access to this database,” Bethel said. “But there are privacy concerns with respect to health care that we need to respect, and secondly, we need to be careful about getting law enforcement involved in doctor-patient relationships. I think the health care community is, for the most part, responsible when it comes to prescription drugs.”

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