NJ Passes Law Requiring Pharmacists to Provide Education, Drug Disposal to Patients

New Jersey legislators have passed “Charlie’s Law,” which requires pharmacists to provide oral and written information on proper medication disposal, as well as a safe disposal method.1

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed “Charlie’s Law,” which requires pharmacists to provide oral and written information on proper medication disposal, as well as a safe disposal method.1 The requirement applies to all controlled substances.2

The legislation is named in honor of Charlie Van Tassel, who died at 33 years old after fighting addiction for many years.1

Providing information and safe disposal methods can be an important tool in preventing medication misuse and curbing the opioid epidemic, according to Deni Carise, PhD, chief scientific officer at Recovery Centers of America.

“This has been a major cause of opioid abuse,” Carise said about unused medications kept in people’s homes.

She added that approximately 72% of opioids prescribed for outpatient surgery go unused, and a key place for adolescents to obtain drugs is from their parents’ or friends’ parents’ medicine cabinets.2

Charlie’s Law requires the issuing pharmacist to make non-toxic disposal methods available to patients, either for free or for purchase. This could be through a pharmacy drop-box or kiosk, or through a drug deactivation system product that neutralizes the medication and disposes of it properly.2

Drug-deactivation bags are a type of deactivation products available to pharmacy patients. Deterra bags, for example, are a double-ziplocked pouch with activated carbon in a water-soluble pod inside. Patients can place pills, patches, liquids, and sublingual sprays inside, before filling the bag halfway with warm water and shaking it gently. Through absorption, the molecule of the drug is bound onto the carbon, rendering the drug inert and permanently deactivated. After this process, it can be safely thrown in the household garbage.3

Jason Sundby, CEO of Verde Technologies, said these deactivation solutions are important not only for preventing medication misuse, but also for protecting the environment. Ensuring that unused drugs do not leach into water sources, landfills, and other environments is an important aspect of disposal technologies, Sundby explained.

“There are about 150 different pharmaceutical compounds in our drinking water,” Sundby said in an interview with Pharmacy Times. “About 30% to 35% are natural, but the rest are flushed drugs.”

Carise reiterated the important environmental reasons to provide safe medication disposal methods, adding that she’s a proponent for deactivating all types of drugs, even if they aren’t commonly abused.

“Really, there’s a hundred different reasons to have this disposal education,” she said.

Disposal is also a less-discussed aspect of the opioid epidemic, Carise added. She said discussions frequently focus first on the crisis, then on policies and treatment options. Prevention, however, is a vital component, according to Carise.

“Prevention is the most important way—people have called prevention the best treatment,” she said.

Even when the opioid crisis is under control, Carise said, proper disposal methods will still be necessary. Therefore, she noted, there needs to be ongoing work and a long-term plan for pharmacists, physicians, and their patients.

“It’s always going to be around,” Carise said. “There’s a need for opioids for prescription pain purposes, but at the same time, we still have issues of [doctors] writing a 30-day prescription for what might be 3 to 5 days of pain, and we’re going to have these excess pills out there.”

REFERENCES

  • ‘Charlie’s Law’ to require NJ pharmacists to inform patients of safe disposal of medication [news release]. Washington, D.C.; Feb. 13, 2019. APhA website. https://www.pharmacist.com/article/charlies-law-require-nj-pharmacists-inform-patients-safe-disposal-medication/. Accessed Jan 14, 2020.
  • Interview, Deni Carise, PhD, chief scientific officer at Recovery Centers of America [https://recoverycentersofamerica.com/]
  • Interview, Jason Sundby, CEO of Verde Technologies