Pharmacies Can Collect Unused Prescription Drugs Under New DEA Regulation

OCTOBER 02, 2014
Under a new Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulation aimed at curbing the rising rates of opioid abuse, pharmacies will soon be legally authorized to accept and safely dispose of patients’ unused prescription medications. (See page 64 in this issue.)

In a video announcing the new rule, which will take effect this month, Attorney General Eric Holder explained that the expanded drug take-back program will allow patients to mail any unused prescription medications to authorized collectors using prepaid packages obtained from their local pharmacy and other locations.

Additionally, retail pharmacies and hospitals and clinics with an on-site pharmacy can voluntarily conduct take-back events, administer mail-back programs, and maintain collection receptacles for unused prescription drugs. The rule also expands the authority of retail pharmacies to provide collection receptacles at long-term care facilities.

Under the current policy, patients cannot legally return unused opioids and other drugs designated as controlled substances to pharmacies. In fact, the only options patients currently have for disposing of unused prescription medications are to flush or throw them away, or to return them to law-enforcement agencies during national drug take-back programs.

Although American Pharmacists Association executive vice-president and CEO Thomas E. Menighan commented that his organization has “long supported the role of pharmacists in helping the public get unused or expired medications out of their homes,” he expressed concerns that “issues with safety, liability and cost … may affect participation of pharmacists and pharmacies.”