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Source: The Chronicle-Express

Local pharmacies join Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program

Posted: February 19, 2018
Originally Published: February 18, 2018

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos has announced the second group of participants in the State’s $2 million Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program.

Participants include 172 retail pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities across the state. Two-hundred and forty-six facilities are now enrolled in the program, which began in 2017.

Local sites announced this week include Beavers Pharmacy in Canisteo, Nicholson Pharmacy in Belmont, Nunda Family Pharmacy LLC, Tops Pharmacy in Dansville, Tops in Bath, and Addison’s Apothecary. The Alfred Pharmacy and the Friendship Pharmacy were previously announced in Round 1.

The second-round locations enrolled in the Pilot Pharmaceutical Take Back Program will officially begin accepting waste medications in May 2018, when medication collection boxes are delivered to and installed by participating pharmacies. Until then, the public is encouraged to use existing medication collection box locations, which can be found by visiting DEC’s website http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/67720.html and clicking on NYS Medication Drop Box Locations link.

“Installing medication drop boxes in community pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities, increases opportunities for New Yorkers to properly and easily dispose of unwanted medications,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The hundreds of pharmacies and facilities participating in New York’s free drug take-back program are protecting their communities and the environment.”

Under the drug take-back program, DEC will purchase medication collection boxes and pay for the disposal of waste pharmaceuticals collected by participating facilities for two years. Implementation of this pilot program will help improve water quality, protect public health by removing medications from home medicine cabinets, and reduce potential adverse impacts to fish and aquatic organisms. The Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program complements Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ongoing efforts to combat opioid addition by removing unused and expired pharmaceuticals from the waste stream.

In addition, in his veto of Senate Bill Number 6750, which would have required chain pharmacies to provide drug disposal options paid for by customers, Governor Cuomo directed DEC to engage with stakeholders and local governments to prepare a report on the feasibility of creating and implementing a comprehensive, statewide pharmaceutical product stewardship program. DEC will issue the report later this year.

The statewide Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program is funded with $2 million from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. These resources will cover the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of pick up, transport, and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a two-year period. The Governor’s Proposed Executive Budget for 2018-19 includes an additional $1 million to support this pilot program.

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.

In addition, there are concerns about unused pharmaceuticals getting into the wrong hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one U.S. citizen dies every 16 minutes from a drug overdose and has declared this public health threat an epidemic.

Senator Tom O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “It’s incredibly important to do anything and everything we can to complement and support the efforts of local law enforcement and other community leaders to combat prescription drug abuse. These efforts include National Prescription Drug Take- Back Days and other initiatives like this one to encourage the collection, and safe and responsible disposal of unused medications. New York’s program to expand the number of permanent, locally based drop-off locations is a very positive addition to the state’s ongoing, overall effort to protect our communities and local environments.”

“Expired, unwanted and unused pharmaceutical drugs require proper disposal in order to prevent unintended consequences such as environmental harm. Flushing unwanted medicine and over the counter products isn’t the answer - studies have detected widespread low-levels of drugs even in drinking water. This funding provided through the Environmental Protection Fund will keep these contaminants out of our water,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation.

“Pharmacists across New York State share the concerns of the Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the proper disposal of prescription medications and commend them for funding a statewide pilot take-back program to increase protection of the environment and improve public safety. Independent pharmacies are pleased to be significant supporters of a program that will provide this critical service to the communities they serve,” said Kathy Febraio, Executive Director, Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

“Grocers like Tops Supermarkets recognize the importance of providing a safe and convenient means of disposing of unwanted prescription drugs,” said Michael Rosen, President of the Food Industry Alliance. “The DEC pilot project encourages people to get these drugs out of their homes while protecting the groundwater.”

“By adding 172 new drug take-back locations to this pilot program, NYS DEC is significantly expanding a much needed service to New York residents with collection kiosks as a fundamental component to success,” said Scott Cassel, chief executive officer and founder of the Product Stewardship Institute. “However, sustainable funding from drug manufacturers – mandated through extended producer responsibility laws – is needed to keep these programs operable in the long term.”

“We are thrilled with DEC’s progress and commitment to expand this valuable program. The need for safe disposal is greater than originally thought. This easy, safe and convenient program provides a meaningful solution to the challenges of safely disposing our unwanted drugs. Stopping drugs from being flushed into our drinking and coastal waters is critical to any protection plan. Kudos to the DEC!” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

The pilot program is open and is accepting applications. Retail pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities are encouraged to enroll online at the Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program web page on DEC’s website http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/108213.html or at on.ny.gov/rxpilot