Pharmacy Times

Rx Drug Drop Boxes

Author: Cmdr John Burke

A simple solution to the problem of drug disposal, secure containers are now being installed at law enforcement facilities nationwide to keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands.


The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), with financial support of Endo Pharmaceuticals, has launched a brand new program to further facilitate the return of outdated and/or unneeded prescription drugs. NADDI, a nonprofit organization of which I am the national president, is devoted to providing information and services to our members and the general public concerning pharmaceutical diversion.

One issue that has continually surfaced for our members, and likely for pharmacists around the country, is the unfortunate dilemma of the prescription drugs that are left behind after the death of a loved one. The legal issues around this are many, because the medication is prescribed to an individual who is now deceased. The best course of action must be determined to remove the drugs, which are subject to illegal diversion, from the household.

NADDI fully supports drug take-back programs with law enforcement’s involvement, and even provides the Web site www.projectdrugdrop.com to assist law enforcement and the public in organizing one of these programs in their own neighborhoods. Law enforcement must be involved, as they can legally take possession of the drugs, obtain a court order for destruction, and have the pharmaceuticals destroyed through their normal policies and procedures.

Legal issues prevail when well-meaning groups attempt these prescription take-back programs on their own without law enforcement. Local physicians or pharmacists should not be accepting the direct return of these medications for several reasons. Perhaps even more extreme are the groups that have attempted to take these medications and hand them out to the poor. Although done with good intentions, these actions are not legal and ripe for liability problems for the organizers.

I received a call earlier this year from a lady whose mother had just died and found herseld in a dilemma as to what to do with a massive amount of leftover controlled substances. She was a nurse, and fully aware of the problems with prescription drug diversion, and she wanted to do the right thing. The caller was aware of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s national take-back program, but it was more than 2 months away and she didn’t feel comfortable waiting that long, because she thought that they could be diverted illegally to others in the meantime.

The idea of law enforcement providing a secure container at their facilities for the public to drop off these medications virtually every day is nothing new. Several departments across the country already provide this service, but NADDI wanted to expand this program and provide a Web site that would allow the public to search for the one closest to their home.

In response to this idea, Endo Pharmaceuticals provided a grant to NADDI to provide 100 of these boxes across the country to law enforcement. As I write this, NADDI has just launched this program and received over 60 requests in just 2 weeks, with very little advertising. My guess is by the time you read this, all of the first 100 boxes will have been distributed, and we will be trying to pursue funding for additional boxes.

More information can be obtained by visiting www.rxdrugdropbox.org. Citizens can go to the Web site and put in their addresses to find the box closest to them. In addition, NADDI is trying to list all the law enforcement box locations on the Web site, not just those distributed by them.

Of course there are rules that law enforcement must follow when receiving one of these boxes, such as securing it to the floor and/or wall inside the police facility and emptying them regularly. They should accept no liquids, needles, or syringes, just tablets, capsules, and patches. Grant recipients are required to weigh the returned pharmaceuticals and provide NADDI with a quarterly statistic on the volume that has been returned.

NADDI has a sincere hope that these boxes will help prevent prescription drug abuse, especially among 12- to 17-year-olds, whose #1 drug of abuse is pharmaceuticals that are often obtained from the family medicine cabinet.

Check out the new Web site, www.rxdrugdropbox.org, and see if a law enforcement return box is near your community, so you can direct your patients to it when this issue arises.


Cmdr Burke is commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the Cincinnati Police Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad.