A broad coalition of environmental, product stewardship, public health, solid waste management, local government, and fishing organizations recently sent a letter to the New York State Department of Health calling for final regulations and implementation of the NYS Drug Take Back Act within 30 days. The law requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund a statewide drug take-back program that provides safe, convenient drug disposal options for the public. The lack of safe disposal options for unwanted or expired pharmaceutical drugs not only contributes to the drug abuse epidemic and accidental poisonings in the home, but also to the pollution of our treasured waters across the state.
“We recognize the unprecedented strain the Department is currently under and are appreciative of their efforts to keep New Yorkers safe during the pandemic,” said Brian Smith, Associate Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We also recognize that the threats to our environment and public health posed by unwanted pharmaceutical drugs are not going away and are likely exacerbated during the pandemic. We are past time for the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry, not financially-strapped local governments, to fund safe drug disposal as required by state law.”
“The Drug Take Back Act was justified in part by the findings of studies by the Environmental Protection Agency and Cornell University, based on data gathered by Riverkeeper, that show dozens of pharmaceuticals are present at low levels in the Hudson River, with the highest numbers and concentrations found at sewage treatment plants,” said Dan Shapley, Water Quality Program Director for Riverkeeper. “The use of pharmaceuticals has increased dramatically in the last 50 years, creating a weak tea of drugs in our waters, with uncertain effects on drinking water quality and wildlife. What’s more, people are suffering from addiction and death because unused medications are being misused. The Drug Take Back Act is an important step toward addressing these problems, and it’s past time to implement it so that we can drop off unused medications safely and conveniently at the same pharmacies where we fill our prescriptions.”
There has been an increasing number of reports across New York State of rising opioid deaths in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Last week, the Governor announced the availability of $1 million for mobile addiction services, focused on underserved communities. The Governor stated, “As we continue our efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard public health, we must remain mindful of the ongoing opioid epidemic.” The coalition contends that the implementation of the Drug Take Back Act would bolster the state’s anti-drug abuse efforts, as a lack of options to safely dispose of unused drugs is contributing to the drug abuse epidemic in New York State, particularly in low-income and communities and communities of color.
“In the U.S., 6 states and 23 local governments have already passed such drug stewardship laws around the country, and many others are poised to do the same,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and Founder of the Product Stewardship Institute. “Unless New York is prepared to use precious taxpayer dollars to continue its own pharmaceutical take-back programs, the Department of Health would best protect its citizens by finalizing its regulations now and get the program moving.”
“The time for drug manufacturers to provide New York State residents with year-long, convenient drop-off of their unwanted pharmaceuticals cannot come soon enough,” said Andrew Radin, Chair, NY Product Stewardship Council. “We look to NYSDOH to waste no time and make that a reality.”