- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Sept. 10

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on responsible Care companies:

When folks in the Kanawha Valley and elsewhere in West Virginia woke up on the morning of Jan. 9, 2014, few of them had ever heard of Freedom Industries.

And had Freedom Industries’ management taken the steps to become certified as a Responsible Distribution company, there’s a strong probability that most of us would still have never heard of the company that was providing specialty chemicals to the coal industry. That company likely would still be quietly serving its customers and 300,000 West Virginians likely wouldn’t have experienced contaminated water due to a leaking Freedom Industries’ tank a half-mile upstream of the area’s only public water supply intake.

Chemical manufacturing and distribution companies who employ standards set by the Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution industry initiatives are more likely to identify gaps in environmental health, safety and security practices before they become costly and dangerous incidents.

Freedom’s loose standards and poor operating practices caused a bad mark on the entire West Virginia chemical industry, but the industry is largely comprised of reputable companies who go to great lengths to operate safely and responsibly.

Unfortunately, not all chemical operators are aware of the Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution best management practices, and concerned industry representatives want to change that.

On Monday, a team from the American Chemistry Council, the National Association of Chemical Distributors and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers conducted a day of workshops aimed at encouraging companies to improve their safety practices by becoming certified.

“We had an incident here that was very personal to 300,000 West Virginians,” said Dean Cordle, president and CEO of AC&S; Inc., a chemical manufacturing company located in Nitro. “It traveled way beyond our state lines and it exposed conditions that exist out there in smaller companies that don’t use the best management practices.”

While there will always be some risk with chemicals, worker safety rates for Responsible Care companies are six times better than those of the overall chemical industry and OSHA-recordable injury and illness rates at such companies dropped 80 percent since 1990.

There are additional costs associated with companies going through the detailed protocol, assessments, improvements and audits required to obtain Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution certification, but not as costly as chemical incidents that can bankrupt a company. Ask Freedom.

As West Virginia’s chemical industry prepares for a potential rapid expansion thanks to proximity to Marcellus shale gas production, it’s good to see concerned operators working with their peers to proactively improve safety.




Sept. 9

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on drug monitoring:

One of the hoped-for consequences of substance-abuse legislation passed by the West Virginia Legislature two years ago is starting to take shape. But also apparent is that a significant portion of the state’s medical community is slow to get on board with the program spelled out in that legislation.

Those are the two major take-aways from information disclosed recently by the state’s Board of Pharmacy, which was charged with the task of establishing a controlled-substances database and monitoring it for possible illegal activity.

The purpose of the legislation proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and approved in 2012 was to combat the rampant abuse of prescription drugs in West Virginia, which has the highest drug overdose death rate in the country.

The cornerstone of the law was establishing a statewide database recording new prescriptions within 24 hours in order to stop patients from receiving duplicate prescriptions from different doctors. A Board of Pharmacy committee was established to review the information, and this summer that panel began to examine records of thousands of patients.

One outcome of that review is that the Board of Pharmacy passed along to state police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration the names of about 90 people suspected of “doctor shopping” for pain pills during the last year, according to a report by The Charleston Gazette. One person got prescriptions for painkillers from 34 doctors, the pharmacy board said, and others obtained prescriptions from multiple doctors in different parts of the state. Those on the list will be investigated for possible criminal charges by local police and federal and county prosecutors. Not all are necessarily trying to “game” the system, pharmacy board officials said, but many are.

The development of the list of suspected doctor shoppers indicates how the review of the controlled-substance database can be effective. But it could be much more effective if doctors stepped up to meet the law’s requirements. It’s clear that many aren’t, based on the review committee’s findings so far.

In the past few months, the committee has sent 2,800 letters warning medical professionals that their patients may be obtaining prescriptions for an excessive number of pain pills, the Gazette reported. However, two-thirds of those doctors replied that they didn’t have direct access to the controlled-substance database, the pharmacy board said. The law requires that doctors who write prescriptions for chronic pain other than that related to cancer or a terminal disease check the database.

The letters prompted many of the notified doctors to register for viewing the database, as they should have after the law was passed. We trust that those who haven’t done so yet will do so soon, and that the pharmacy board will pester them until they do. As Mike Goff, a pharmacy board administrator who oversees the controlled-substances monitoring program, told the Gazette: “Every time someone gets a prescription, it goes into our database. It’s a great tool. All (doctors) have to do is use it.”

Those physicians who aren’t should begin to immediately so that the state’s law can have the full force intended to fight the abuse of prescription medications.



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