Federal Opioid Policies Impacting Drug Take Back Programs

By: Stericycle

During October 2019’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, the public turned in nearly 883,000 pounds – almost 442 tons – of unused medication to more than 6,000 collection sites nationwide. Hosted bi-annually by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the day aims to provide a safe, convenient and sustainable means to dispose of expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Events like Drug Take Back Day are a great way for citizens to clear out their medicine cabinets and safely dispose of any leftover medications. However, the idea of year-round drug take back options is growing in popularity amongst federal and state lawmakers as a way to protect our environment and the overall health of our communities.

As awareness of the need for safe medication disposal continues to grow, two pieces of federal opioid legislation look to increase the availability of year-round drug take back programs: the Safe Disposal of Opioids Act and the Excise Narcotics Distribution Act.

Safe Disposal of Opioids Act

This summer, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) introduced the Safe Disposal of Opioids Act to Congress. The act, also called House Resolution 3171, did not receive a vote but may be reintroduced next year. It amends the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) to create a DEA grant program that helps pharmacies, hospitals and law enforcement agencies acquire and maintain drug disposal bins.

The goal of this bill is to place medication collection kiosks in community pharmacies and other health care settings where patients also receive medication. Because six in 10 patients prescribed opioid painkillers report having leftover pills at home, safe disposal can help mitigate the risk of diversion, abuse or accidental poisoning when these drugs are left in the home’s medicine cabinet after they are no longer needed. The Safe Disposal of Opioids Act is also the first federal bill to specify funding via Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which requires drug manufacturers to fund the programs based on the volume of drugs sold throughout the country.

Excise Narcotics Distribution Act

The Excise Narcotics Distribution Act, also known as House Resolution 4631, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) to Congress October 2019. The bill imposes an excise tax on opioid manufacturers, producers and importers. It would also provide grants to states for research on opioids, including heroin, and for opioid abuse prevention and treatment. There has been no activity since introduction.

If passed, both pieces of legislation would make drug disposal options more accessible across the nation. By helping families safely dispose of unused medications, communities can prevent drug diversion that may lead to substance abuse, substance use disorders and overdose deaths.

Our commitment

For 30 years, Stericycle has been the complete provider of safe and compliant medication and sharps disposal solutions. Stericycle’s drug take back collection kiosks and Seal&Send medication mail back envelopes are a safe, convenient and sustainable options for consumers to dispose of their unused and expired household drugs year-round.

Click here to learn more about our drug take back solutions.