Sep 12

DEA Announces Final Regulations That Expand Options for Safely Disposing of Prescription Drugs

Unwanted, unused and expired prescription drugs can now be safely disposed of in pharmacies and other locations,  thanks to expanded regulations by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced this week. The regulations will take effect on October 9.

The DEA’s Final Rule for the Disposal of Controlled substances, which implements the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, now authorizes manufacturers, distributors and reverse distributors of prescription drugs; narcotic treatment programs; retail pharmacies and hospitals and clinics with on-site pharmacies to modify their registration with the DEA to become certified collectors of unused and expired prescription drugs.

In addition, authorized collectors with an on-site means of destruction for the drugs may operate a mail-back program. Retail pharmacies and hospitals and clinics with on-site pharmacies may now operate collection receptacles at long-term care facilities. Waste management companies are not required to be registered with the DEA.

Despite the expansion, law enforcement continues to have autonomy with respect to how prescription drugs are collected from ultimate users, including holding take-back events. Any person or entity – DEA registrant or non-registrant – can now partner with law enforcement to hold take-back events.

“These new regulations will expand the public’s options to safely and responsibly dispose of unused or unwanted medications,” said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.  “The new rules will allow for around-the-clock, simple solutions to this ongoing problem.  Now everyone can easily play a part in reducing the availability of these potentially dangerous drugs.”

Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, called it a “Landmark announcement for everyone working on prescription drug misuse in this country. The road to prescription drug misuse is often through the medicine cabinet. Every day, I hear from another parent who has tragically lost a son or daughter to an opioid overdose. No words can lessen their pain,” he said “But we can take decisive action, like the one we’re announcing today, to prevent more lives from being cut short far too soon. We know that if we remove unused painkillers from the home, we can prevent misuse and dependence from ever taking hold. These regulations will create critical new avenues for addictive prescription drugs to leave the home and be disposed of in a safe, environmentally friendly way.”

These new regulations are a key component to the Obama Administration’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Plan, which called for convenient and environmentally responsible prescription drug disposal programs, in response to the opioid epidemic.

Prescription drug abuse plagues thousands of families across America, due to easy access via medicine cabinets. Almost twice as many residents – 6.8 million – currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and inhalants combined, according to the 2012 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Nearly 110 Americans die each day from drug-related overdoses and half of those are related to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin. More than 70 percent of those who misuse prescription painkillers reported getting them from friends or relatives’ medicine cabinets the first time they were used.

The DEA began hosting National Prescription Drug Take-Back events in September 2010. Since then, sponsoring eight take-back days.  Enormous public participation resulted in the collection of more than 4.1 million pounds (over 2,100 tons) of medication at over 6,000 sites manned by law enforcement partners throughout all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories.

On September 27, the DEA holds its next Take-Back Day, which may be the last, since the agency says it does not have plans to sponsor any others in order to give authorized collectors the opportunity to provide this service to their communities. Visit www.dea.gov or call 1-800-882-9539 to find a nearby collection site near you.

Click here to access guidelines developed by the Food and Drug Administration and ONDCP for the proper disposal of pharmaceutical controlled substances.