President Signs Safe Drug Disposal Act of 2010

President Barack Obama signed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 (S. 3397) into law. This law will allow patients who lawfully obtain controlled substances to transfer them to a government or private entity for disposal.

Under the provisions of the new law, the U.S. Attorney General will issue regulations governing the transfer of controlled substances for disposal to prevent diversion. Long-term care facilities will also be permitted to dispose of controlled substances on behalf of their patients or former patients. The Attorney General may not require any entity to establish disposal programs.

Michele Leonhart, DEA Acting Administrator, called the bill “an important step in addressing the alarming rise in prescription drug abuse” in a news release. “This bill will help reduce the diversion of prescription drugs that often sit in our own medicine cabinets far too long,” she commented.

This act would amend the Controlled Substances Act to ease restrictions on individuals that collect unwanted or unused pharmaceuticals for safe disposal.

Current restrictions by the Drug Enforcement Agency require that certain unused, expired or unwanted medications be relinquished only to an individual authorized by the DEA. This caveat has made take-back and disposal programs extremely difficult. Without access to an alternative disposal option, many unwanted drugs are disposed of via flushing, which has concerned many in the wastewater community that facilities are not equipped to treat this type of substance and thus it ends up in the water supply.

The legislation would ease these restrictions and make it easier to operate local take-back programs. Each state’s Attorney General would have the authority to authorize groups to run take-back or mail-in programs. Additionally the House legislation would require EPA and DEA to work together on a public education and outreach program and would require EPA to initiate a study analyzing the environmental impacts of medications in the water supply.

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