Many consumers – even Earth911’s own CEO Barry Monheit – are stumped when trying to determine the most environmentally responsible way to dispose of expired or unused prescription medications: Do you flush them down the toilet or put them in the trash? Is there a local collection center that will safely dispose of the old drugs?
Now Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., is proposing a new way for consumers to conveniently and safely get rid of old medications – to keep the pharmaceuticals from polluting drinking water and ensure they don’t fall into the hands of young people or criminals.
Slaughter introduced new legislation to Congress on Monday that would require pharmaceutical companies to set up a take-back program for leftover prescription drugs at no cost to the consumer.
The Pharmaceutical Stewardship Act creates a nonprofit organization, financed by drug manufacturers, which would be responsible for establishing a comprehensive pharmaceutical collection programs in every state. Every county and city with more than 10,000 residents would be required to have a collection site for waste medications or, if a collection site is not feasible, a pre-paid mailer must be made available to those residents.
According to the bill, the nonprofit will publicize the take-back program to consumers, pharmacies and health care facilities through outreach materials, a toll-free hotline and a website.
H.R. 2939 would also set up a commission that would develop a strategy to prevent pollution at all stages in a pharmaceutical’s lifecycle: from production to disposal.
“The need for a safe drug disposal program has never been greater,” Slaughter said in a statement. “In a 2008 investigation, pharmaceutical contamination was found in 24 out of 28 metropolitan areas’ drinking water. Worse yet, unused pharmaceuticals place a bulls-eye on the homes of the elderly for thieves, or can result in accidental overdose or death. The bill I [introduced] would help solve these serious environmental, public health and public safety concerns by providing Americans with a convenient way to safely dispose of unneeded prescription drugs.”