[Pharmwaste] draft Letter to the Editor

Ed Gottlieb EGottlieb at cityofithaca.org
Thu Feb 26 10:00:36 EST 2015

Inspired by yet another news story of a law enforcement drop box being installed outside their station, in violation of the new DEA rule, I wrote a letter to the editor (below.)  After incorporating your good suggestions, I plan on sending it to two or three of the most widely read law enforcement publications.

I'd welcome your editorial suggestions and your advice on which publications to submit it to.
Publications I found:  Police Chief Magazine; Police; Law & Order; Sheriff; Law Officer; APB


Pharmaceutical Drop Box Programs Need Review

Providing the public with convenient ways to dispose of unwanted medications, especially controlled substances, is an important public service.  Removing unwanted pharmaceuticals from homes decreases the likelihood of illegal diversion, accidental overdose, and environmental contamination.

After the DEA established the Take Back Initiative, what had been a small number of existing law enforcement collection events quickly multiplied.  The ninth and final DEA event, on September 27, 4014, included 4,076 agencies collecting 309 tons of unwanted medications at 5,495 sites in just four hours!

To increase disposal convenience, a steadily growing number of law enforcement agencies (and pharmacies, for non-controlled collection) have installed permanent drop boxes at their locations.  Thanks to wide community support, and some limited funding from state agencies and others, new drop boxes continue to be installed.
Kudos to all of you that have taken the lead on this important issue!

Are you aware that your drop box program may need to be modified to be compliant with recent changes to federal take back rules?  This letter was inspired by reading multiple stories of new drop boxes being installed that are in violation of a new federal rule.

Late in 2014, the DEA issued a rule regulating the take back of controlled substances.  The big change is that pharmacies can now apply to take back controlled pharmaceuticals.  Since the rule does not require participation, and provides no funding, it may be quite some time before a pharmacy near you participates.  Law enforcement programs remain the primary method for safe disposal.

As an aside, I want to mention that once the new rule was in place, the DEA announced the end of the hugely successful Take Back Initiative.  That decision has left many law enforcement agencies struggling to find the funding needed to keep their one day and/or drop box collection programs going.  It is going to be a tough transition time.

Back to the point...the rule also specifies how law enforcement collects controlled substances.  Please take the time to make sure your program is in compliance with the new rule.  Here are a few details, specific to law enforcement, which should be part of your review check list.

1. Boxes must be inside law enforcement buildings.  They are looking for active monitoring.
§ 1317.35 Collection by law enforcement. (3) Collection receptacles located inside law enforcement's physical address.   Also:
§ 1317.75 Collection receptacles (d) (1) Inside a collector's registered location, inside law enforcement's physical location, or at an authorized long-term care facility;

2. They must be securely placed so that they cannot be removed, typically bolted to the floor and/or wall from inside the box.  [§ 1317.75 (e) (1)]

3. Signage must indicate that Schedule II-V controlled and non-controlled substances are acceptable and that Schedule I controlled is not. [§ 1317.75 (e) (4)].  (I had to add this wording to my programs signage using stickers.)

4. Collected medications must be, “stored in a manner that prevents the diversion of controlled substances and is consistent with that agency's standard procedures…” [§ 1317.35 (c)]  (We wrote an SOP specifying that inventory of the contents was not necessary.  It isn't practical to routinely identify and count all the controlled substances received from a take back program.  This also clears to way to be in compliance with state accreditation rules.)

5. The box must contain an opaque inner liner that, upon removal, must be labeled as specified in your departments SOP.  If custody is to be transferred to a reverse distributor, a specific list of labeling requirements must be followed. [§ 1317.35]

For those of you holding take back events, you can authorize non-law enforcement personnel to assist with required, and voluntary, activities including: receiving, weighing, separating controlled from non-controlled, removing unacceptable items (sharps, mercury), inventorying, etc. [Executive Summary: J. Prohibition on Handling, Sorting, and Inventorying Inner Liner Contents and Mail-Back Package Contents; Response to Issues 2 & 3,]

If you have any questions about the rule, you should contact your DEA field office.  I’d also be happy to try and answer your questions.  Please let me know if your DEA field office says something in conflict with your reading of rule.  Thanks!

Keep up the good work!

Ed Gottlieb
Chair, Coalition for Safe Medication Disposal
Industrial Pretreatment Coordinator
Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility
525 3rd Street
Ithaca, NY  14850
(607) 273-8381
fax: (607) 273-8433

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