Pharmacies required to check ID for some pain medications starting today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Pharmacies across the state will be required to check photo identification as part of a new law that goes into effect today.
Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a press release Wednesday that the law aims to fight prescription drug fraud and abuse. The State Bureau of Investigation has seen a 400 percent increase in prescription narcotics cases over the last five years.
Customers filling prescriptions of certain drugs including Oxycontin, morphine methadone, fentanyl and Vicodin can expect to have their prescriptions withheld until they can provide an adequate photo identification.
The law requires one of four IDs: a driver’s license, special identification card, military identification card or passport. School or work IDs will not be accepted.
Pharmacists in Salisbury said Wednesday that customers will have to get used to the law, but they don’t see it having a significant impact.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a hindrance to our business,” Joe Hager, pharmacist at Salisbury Pharmacy, said Wednesday. “But it may catch some people by surprise.”
Hager said most people carry their IDs with them, but those picking up prescriptions for neighbors or family members will have to make changes.
“Sometimes that could be a problem for people that don’t drive,” he said. “They may have to eventually get some type of photo ID.”
Hager said the law will make people responsible for their prescriptions.
“If there is anything fraudulent about the prescription, it will certainly make people think before they attempt to pass something like that,” he said.
Kyle Yoder, pharmacist at Moose Pharmacy, said between 15 and 25 percent of the prescriptions that come in will be affected by the new law.
“I don’t see it having a huge impact,” Yoder said. “We implemented it about a week ago to test it out and to start getting people used to it.”
Yoder said most prescription abusers use “doctor shopping and pharmacy shopping” techniques to obtain pills.
Reducing the epidemic, he said, will require better communication between doctors and pharmacies.
“Not everybody is on the same system,” Yoder said. “Until there’s a comprehensive system, it’ll be hard to stop it.”
The new law comes on the heels of a Spencer Police undercover drug sting that netted three on narcotics charges.
Spencer Police Chief Michael James said investigator Nick Pacilio led Spencer and Mooresville Police officers during the operation.
Robert Cletus Hamilton Jr., 700 N. Salisbury Ave. Apt. 8; Robert Thomas, 407 S. Iredell Ave.; and Nicholas Edward Overly, 823 E. Liberty St., Salisbury, were arrested during the roundup. A fourth man, Christopher Duane Robbins, of 906 Second St., was also arrested on marijuana charges.
James said the new law will help officers hold prescription users accountable.
“I certainly don’t think it’ll hurt,” he said.
Police have seen prescription users selling their medication after leaving pharmacies. James said the trend has led officers to use Computerized Voice Stress Analyzer tests to see if those reporting break-ins were actually victimized.
“We don’t want to do an incident report and that not really be the same thing,” James said.
Once officers fill out incident reports, abusers can take the reports to pharmacies for more drugs.
Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said the new law will have an impact both as a deterrent against potential abusers and in assisting law enforcement officers tracking pill fraud.
“It’ll make people in the underworld or crime world less likely to do that,” Auten said. “They know they’re going to have to show their ID. It would make them easier to identify.”
Auten said as it stood, the law was vulnerable to Dumpster divers who found prescription bottles that still had valid refills.
With the new law, abusers will have to show photo identification upon picking up those prescriptions.
“It deters folks. That’s the whole issue. It deters folks from committing a fraud,” Auten said.
Cooper, the state attorney general, said the change is intended to reduce prescription drug overdose numbers in the state. “Powerful prescription drugs can be deadly when misused, and this law will help us fight the growing problem of prescription drug abuse,” Cooper said in his press release.
An estimated 1,000 overdosed on prescription drugs last year in North Carolina, according to preliminary data from the N.C. Division of Public Health.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.
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