Reported overdose deaths in New York and Dutchess County have reached record highs. New York, like many states, is suffering the consequences of an opioid epidemic. Both the state and the county have focused on prevention activities to build a coordinated approach to fight addictions and reduce deaths from overdose. One of the things that would be of tremendous help is the passage of the New York State Drug Take Back Act (S.7354 / A.9576).
Given the number of lawsuits across the state and the country, the time is ripe for a manufacturer-funded drug take-back program in New York State. Mounting evidence demonstrates the need for safe and secure disposal options for pharmaceuticals that match the convenience of purchasing them. Drugs improperly stored in the home too often end up in the hands of children, teenagers, and potential abusers. A lack of safe disposal options contributes to the national drug abuse epidemic that is now the leading cause of injury death in the U.S., ahead of car accidents. More than 2,000 people in New York State die annually from opioid overdose, and most commonly from prescription pain relievers. Deaths from drug overdoses and chronic drug abuse in NYS increased at an alarming rate of 71 percent between 2010 and 2015.
The lack of safe disposal options is perpetuating the antiquated and harmful practices of flushing unwanted drugs or throwing them in the trash. Sewage treatment plants and septic systems are not designed to remove these contaminants; therefore, every time we flush we are polluting our waters with trace amounts of drugs. Drugs thrown in the trash are most often sent to landfills, with pharmaceuticals ending up in landfill leachate (water that passes through the landfill). Both disposal practices threaten water quality and aquatic life.
While NYS has invested millions of dollars in expanding safe disposal, many New Yorkers still do not have convenient access. This legislation would provide a sustainable funding mechanism for a robust, statewide disposal program by holding drug companies accountable for managing their products throughout the entire product life cycle, instead of solely relying on taxpayers to fund management of these drugs at the products’ end-of-life.
In the U.S., 21 local governments (including Rockland County, NY) and 2 states (Massachusetts and Vermont) have already passed laws that require drug companies to establish collection programs for both controlled and non-controlled substances, providing residents with a convenient way to safely remove expired and unwanted medications from their homes. Many other jurisdictions around the country have introduced similar legislation, including Erie County and Westchester County in New York State. Dutchess County is in the early stages of developing similar legislation.
Given the current opioid crisis, I encourage state lawmakers including State Senators Terrence Murphy and Sue Serino as well as Assemblymembers Didi Barrett, Kevin Cahill, and Kieran Michael Labor to support this legislation.