[Pharmwaste] Federal Government issues drug disposal guidance

Thompson.Virginia at epamail.epa.gov Thompson.Virginia at epamail.epa.gov
Wed Feb 21 09:00:53 EST 2007

On Feb. 20, 2007, the Federal Government, including the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Dept. of Health & Human
Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency jointly issued
guidelines for proper disposal of prescription drugs.  The press release
is reprinted below, but it is also available at

                            PRESCRIPTION DRUGS:


   (Washington, DC)—In the face of rising trends in prescription drug
   abuse, the Federal government today issued new guidelines for the
   proper disposal of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs.
   The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the
   Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Environmental
   Protection Agency (EPA) jointly released the new guidelines, which
   are designed to reduce the diversion of prescription drugs, while
   also protecting the environment.

   The new Federal prescription drug disposal guidelines urge Americans

   §  Take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their
   original containers
   §  Mix the prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, like
   used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in impermeable,
   non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags, further
   ensuring that the drugs are not diverted or accidentally ingested by
   children or pets
   §  Throw these containers in the trash
   §  Flush prescription drugs down the toilet only if the accompanying
   patient information specifically instructs it is safe to do so
   §  Return unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs to
   pharmaceutical take-back locations that allow the public to bring
   unused drugs to a central location for safe disposal

   Abuse of prescription drugs to get high has become increasingly
   prevalent among teens and young adults. Past year abuse of
   prescription pain killers abuse now ranks second—only behind
   marijuana—as the Nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem. While
   overall youth drug use is down by 23 percent since 2001,
   approximately 6.4 million Americans report non-medical use of
   prescription drugs. New abusers of prescription drugs have caught up
   with the number of new users of marijuana. Much of this abuse appears
   to be fueled by the relative ease of access to prescription drugs.
   Approximately 60 percent of people who abuse prescription pain
   killers indicate that they got their prescription drugs from a friend
   or relative for free.

   John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy, said,
   "Millions of Americans benefit from the tremendous scientific
   achievements represented by modern pharmaceutical products. But, when
   abused, some prescription drugs can be as addictive and dangerous as
   illegal street drugs. The new prescription drug disposal guidelines
   will help us stop and prevent prescription drug abuse, and the harm
   it can cause.

   Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said, "Health
   care providers, pharmacists, and family should be alert to the
   potential for prescription drug misuse, abuse, and dependence. In
   addition to supporting the new prescription drug disposal guidelines,
   they should address prescription drug misuse honestly and directly
   with their patients or loved ones when they suspect it. People in
   need should be encouraged to seek help for drug problems and if
   needed, enter treatment."

   The new Federal guidelines are a balance between public health
   concerns and potential environmental concerns.

   While EPA continues to research the effects of pharmaceuticals in
   water sources, one thing is clear: improper drug disposal is a
   prescription for environmental and societal concern," said EPA
   Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "Following these new guidelines
   will protect our Nation's waterways and keep pharmaceuticals out of
   the hands of potential abusers."

   The new Federal prescription drug disposal guidelines go into effect
   immediately. As part of the National Drug Control Strategy, the Bush
   Administration has set a goal of reducing prescription drug abuse by
   15 percent over three years. In addition to promoting awareness of
   the risks involved with using prescription drugs for non-medical
   purposes as well as they need for adults to strictly control access
   to pharmaceuticals within their homes, the Administration supports
   the implementation of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs at the
   State level. Currently, 33 States have such programs in place.

   For more information, please visit www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov

Virginia Thompson
Sustainable Healthcare Sector Coordinator
Office of Environmental Innovation (3EA40)
US Environmental Protection Agency Region 3
1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA  19103
Voice:  (215) 814-5755; Fax (215) 814-2783
thompson.virginia at epa.gov

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