Assemblywoman Walker: We Must Combat Opioid Epidemic on All Fronts

New statewide drug takeback program taking effect

Assemblywoman Walker (D-55) announced that the Drug Take Back Act goes into effect Jan. 6, creating a statewide drug takeback program – paid for by drug manufacturers, not taxpayers (Ch. 120 of 2018). The program requires participation by all chain and mail-order pharmacies doing business in the state and is part of the Assembly Majority’s continued efforts to fight the opioid epidemic and save lives. The Assembly previously led the push for “I-STOP,” creating the first real-time prescription-drug database in the country.

“There are families grieving in every corner of this state, trying to make sense of why their loved ones were taken so soon,” said Assemblywoman Walker. “The opioid epidemic has shown us that addiction knows no bounds and will often hold its victims powerless until it’s too late. One of the most important ways we can combat this devastating crisis is to stop addiction before it even starts, and that’s what this drug takeback program will help do.”

Opioid overdoses took the lives of more than 42,000 Americans in 2016. Here in New York, the rate of opioid overdose deaths doubled between 2010 and 2015. The nationwide crisis has reached such epidemic proportions that life expectancy in the U.S. has decreased for the second time in three years. Assemblywoman Walker noted that these aren’t just grim statistics – they represent real lives being lost and families being torn apart.

The new law requires all drug manufacturers to implement a takeback program in which both chain and mail-order pharmacies offer on-site collection or prepaid envelopes for New Yorkers to dispose of unused medication. Assemblywoman Walker noted that opioid addiction often begins with the use of prescription painkillers, whether obtained legitimately through a doctor or illegally from someone else’s medicine cabinet, and that the program will help cut off supply. The program will also help ensure that these drugs are not improperly disposed of by flushing down the toilet or throwing them in the trash, which can cause them to seep into the water supply.

The 2018-19 state budget allocated nearly $250 million toward addressing the heroin and opioid crisis, including increased funding to strengthen educational and awareness campaigns, prevention, treatment and recovery programs and residential service opportunities. In 2016, the Assembly passed comprehensive laws to get more people on the road to recovery. The measures increased the maximum time for detox in a treatment facility, required insurers to cover a minimum of 14 days of inpatient treatment as well as substance use disorder medications, allowed more professionals to administer lifesaving Narcan, mandated training in pain management for prescribers to avoid over-prescription of painkillers and limited the amount that can be prescribed for acute pain (Ch. 69, 70 and 71 of 2016).

In 2012, the Assembly overhauled the way prescription drugs are administered and tracked in the state with “I-STOP,” cracking down on abuse and strengthening regulations to curb improper use (Ch. 447 of 2012). The law requires doctors to review a patient’s prescription history on the database prior to prescribing certain controlled substances.

“With a new legislative session underway, we must continue to do everything we can to prevent addiction, increase access to treatment and ensure those suffering are not forgotten or ignored,” said Assemblywoman Walker.