New Federal Regulations Provide for Pharmacies and Hospitals to Collect Unused Drugs
New DEA regulations were finalized in September 2014 to implement the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. (See announcement here). These regulations expand the types of locations allowed to accept unwanted medications on a routine basis. However, the potentially authorized collectors - drug manufacturers, distributors, narcotic treatment programs, retail pharmacies, and hospitals - must first modify their registration status with the DEA. In other words, these changes will NOT take place instantaneously. It may be a while before any locations near you become DEA-authorized collectors, and some potential collectors will likely opt out because of space or financial considerations.
Still, this is very good news. Before this, pharmacies and hospitals were banned from accepting unwanted prescription drugs. The public’s only legal option to discard them safely was to give them to a law enforcement agency. But instead, most people flushed them down the toilet, threw them in the trash, or kept them in the household medicine cabinet, resulting in contamination of the water supply and the theft and abuse of the prescription drugs.
What Is the Issue?
an overview of what pharmaceuticals and personal care products are, and how they threaten water quality.
What YOU Can Do
Don't flush your unused medications down the toilet. This allows them to get into the water stream which can impact fish, wildlife, or even you. Dispose of unused medications properly by finding a local take-back location (see below) or altering the medications by mixing with kitty litter or coffee grounds and disposing of it in the trash.
Permanent Collection Boxes in Oregon
More than 50 Oregon communities have established permanent, free collection boxes that are open year-round for safe and anonymous disposal of unused drugs. The form of drugs accepted varies by location. In general, all locations will accept drugs in pill/capsule form, but are not likely to accept "sharps" (e.g., hypodermic needles) or mercury-containing thermometers. Acceptance of medical creams varies; check by location on list linked below. These collection boxes are intended for household disposal (not from businesses).
Other Safe Disposal Options
If a drug take-back opportunity is not available in your area, consider these disposal options and special instructions
from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.
Oregon Public Water Providers are Taking Action!
In 2013, Clackamas River Water Providers
installed more drug collection boxes around Clackamas County (now 10) and established a website
and brochure explaining how to protect their local surface and groundwater supplies from contamination by properly disposing of pharmaceuticals. Their project received Source Water Protection funding (federal grant money) via our agency, Oregon Drinking Water Services.
- Your drinking water supplier may also be eligible for grant or loan funds to implement projects that will better protect public drinking water sources (either surface or groundwater sources). Grants up to $30,000 per water system and loans up to $100,000 per system are available. Visit the Drinking Water Source Protection Fund page to learn more.
Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not plan to sponsor any more National Drug Take-Back Days because the new regulations announced above should greatly expand the legal options to dispose of such items in the community. The last nationally sponsored collection was held on September 14, 2014.
For four years, the DEA sponsored National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days twice a year throughout the country. Dozens of locations participated in Oregon. The public’s response was impressive. At the April 2014 collection, over 780,000 pounds (390 tons) of prescription drugs were turned in; that included 7,729 pounds (3.9 tons) from Oregon alone. In total, the nine semi-annual National Take Back Days removed more than 4.1 million pounds (over 2,100 tons) of prescription drugs from circulation.