April 26, 2019

Medication Disposal Opportunities on Drug Take Back Day

New York State Department of Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, OASAS, and the Office for the Aging Announce Medication Disposal Opportunities Across New York State on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
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Expired, Unused and Unwanted Prescription Drugs Can Be Discarded at More Than 200 Locations Statewide
Drug Disposal at Participating Locations is Free and Anonymous
251 Collection Boxes Distributed Across State Under DEC's Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program

The New York State Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the State Office for the Aging today announced that they are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and local law enforcement to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 27, 2019 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. New Yorkers can help prevent addiction before it can start by disposing of their prescription controlled substances, in addition to other prescribed medications, at one of 235 participating locations across the state, which can be found online using the online collection site locator tool.

"It's important to offer New Yorkers easy and safe options to dispose of their unused prescription medication," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Co-Chair of the NYS Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force. "We're making that possible with hundreds of locations across the State where people can get rid of unused pharmaceuticals. New York is continuing to battle the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities and investing in programs and services to help individuals struggling with addiction. This is one of many ways we are working to end the crisis and ensure the safety of all New Yorkers."

Saturday's event marks the 17th time in eight years that New York has participated in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Last October, Americans turned in 457.12 tons of prescription drugs at 5,839 sites operated by the DEA and 4,770 of its state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. In the 16 previous national Take Back events, the DEA and its partners have taken in more than 5,400 tons of pills. The DEA's New York Division alone collected approximately 24.5 tons of discarded prescription drugs from designated collection sites last October, the highest amount since 2015.

In addition to the law enforcement sites available to the public, 406 healthcare facilities across the state will also be participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The facilities, including institutional settings, such as long-term care facilities and nursing homes, will be disposing of their own unused and expired medications to further reduce the potential of diversion of dangerous controlled substances.

New York State Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Storing prescription drugs in your home that are no longer needed can be harmful to your health and the health of your loved ones. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a welcome opportunity for New Yorkers to dispose of these medications before they end up in the hands of children or help fuel the scourge of addiction.”

New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, “Addiction is a public health crisis and responding to it requires a diversified and coordinated effort. Ensuring proper disposal of unused prescription drugs can help protect people from accidental overdoses and help curb addiction. I urge all New Yorkers to participate in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to protect and save lives in their communities.”

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Emerging threats to drinking water supplies across the country are now collateral damage resulting from America’s raging opioid crisis. Rising to meet the serious challenges posed by these dangerous chemicals requires developing 21st Century technologies, employing forward-thinking strategies, and prioritizing the funding to support them. Governor Cuomo has delivered on a fully funded, $300 million EPF for a fourth straight year to support critical programs like the Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program to ensure a smarter, safer, and stronger future for our environment and precious natural resources.”

New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) Acting Director Greg Olsen said, “Many older adults are prescribed up to 14 medications a year, and over time, changing medical conditions can mean different medications. Having expired or unneeded prescription drugs can lead to potentially dangerous situations from incorrect dosages, taking expired pills that are no longer effective, or having unused medication find its way into the wrong hands. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day helps older New Yorkers and caregivers dispose of unused medications safely to avoid accidental misuse or abuse.”

The DEA can only accept pills or patches, not liquids, needles or sharps.The service is free and anonymous. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.2 million Americans abused controlled prescription drugs. The number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs is also disturbingly high. Studies show that most abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, there are concerns about unused pharmaceuticals getting into the wrong hands. More than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared this public health threat an epidemic. The usual methods for disposing of unused medicines - throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet - pose potential health, safety and environmental hazards.

With technological advances in analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect low levels of drugs in surface water and groundwater. Some drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways. Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers and streams and can negatively affect the waterways. A national study conducted in 1999 and 2000 by the U.S. Geological Survey found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of rivers and streams tested. Medications adversely affect fish and other aquatic wildlife and increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation announced in December 2017 that, under New York's $2 million pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program, 251 collection boxes have been distributed to participating retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state to safely collect unused and expired waste medication. Since May 2018, DEC has collected over 9.5 tons or 19,071 pounds of unused, unwanted, or expired medications through the pilot program and New Yorkers are encouraged to use the medication collection box locations, which can be found by visiting the https://on.ny.gov/rxdropbox and clicking on the map.

The pilot is funded with $2 million from the state's Environmental Protection Fund, which covers the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of up to 50 inner liners, pick up, transport and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a period of two years. At the end of the pilot program participants are required to continue the program, at their own expense, for six additional months. DEC is in the process of installing another 230 medication collection boxes across the state under the second phase of the pilot program, which began in February of 2019.

Additionally, the Department of Health, in consultation with DEC, continue to implement the Drug Take Back Act which was signed in by Governor Cuomo in July 2018. This program will be operational later this year and mandates that drug manufacturers establish, fund, and manage a New York State approved drug take back program for the safe collection and disposal of unused covered drugs.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, go to the DEA Diversion website.