Legislature Passes Drug Take Back Bill

June 29, 2018

At times, a personís struggle with drug addiction starts with access to unused medication in a home medicine cabinet. In order to help prevent this pathway to addiction and also help the environment, this session the State Legislature passed a measure that, if signed by the Governor, will for the first time in New York require drug manufacturers to assist with the collection of unused drugs.

In the past, it was common practice for people to throw unused medications in the garbage or flush it down the toilet. While this was convenient, there is evidence that medicine thrown in the garbage can get into the wrong hands and flushing medicine down the toilet can result in drugs getting into our waterways. In order to combat these issues, starting in 2010, local law enforcement agencies and various retail pharmacies partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to provide times and places for unused drug collection. Since 2010, this effort has been expanded and currently, in New York, unused medication can be dropped off at pharmacies and at police stations that have agreed to accept the unused medication and have been authorized by the DEA to do so. Locally, there are several collection sites that help people dispose of drugs properly. In Onondaga County, the police departments of Baldwinsville, Camillus, Cicero, DeWitt, Geddes, Manlius, Marcellus and Syracuse offer drug take-back programs in addition to some local pharmacies. In Oswego County, the City of Oswego police department participates. At the police stations, people can anonymously drop off unwanted medicine in specially marked boxes.

While the system we have in place now is a good start, more should and can be done. Two of the challenges of unused drug collection are the costs of properly disposing the drugs and the number collections sites. The legislation that passed this spring, if enacted, will bolster the local efforts mentioned above by requiring drug manufacturers to also assist with the proper collection and disposal of the unused drugs.

Pursuant to the legislation, any manufacturer of drugs sold in New York with some exclusions must either operate its own drug take-back program or partner with other manufacturers or collection sites to provide for safe collection and disposal or provide for mail return of the drugs. Each drug take-back program must be approved by the Department of Health. The bill specifies that manufacturers will be required to assist with educational outreach and advertising of the collection sites. It also requires that that people in rural areas or areas where there are limited collection sites to be able to return unused medicines to the drug manufacturer through the use of prepaid mail-back envelopes.

Similar legislation was passed last year but was vetoed by the Governor. That bill unlike the bill passed this year did not specify how the costs of drug collection and disposal would be addressed. The legislation passed this year puts the expense of these additional measures squarely on the drug manufacturers. While it is hard to quantify if drug take-back sites are preventing drug abuse, taking unused drugs out of the house reduces access to prescription drugs which includes opioids.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@nyassembly.gov, or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.