April 27, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Medication Disposal Sites Across New York on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

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Governor Cuomo Announces Medication Disposal Sites Across New York on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day
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Unused Prescription Drugs Can Be Discarded at More Than 200 Locations Statewide

Drug Disposal at Participating Locations is Free and Anonymous

87 Collection Boxes Distributed Statewide Under DEC's Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that state agencies are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 28, 2018 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. New Yorkers can dispose of their medications at one of 217 participating locations across the state, which can be found online using the online collection site locator tool.

"This nation has been hit hard by the epidemic of addiction and substance abuse, and in New York we are taking every possible step to combat this crisis," Governor Cuomo said. "Providing New Yorkers with the opportunity to safely dispose of prescription drugs can help stem the tide by preventing these medications from being accessed by those struggling with addiction, or those who may fall victim to this blight in our communities."

Saturday's event marks the 15th time in eight years that New York has participated in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Last October, Americans turned in 456 tons of prescription drugs at more than 5,300 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. That is almost six tons more than was collected at last spring's event. In the 14 previous national Take Back events, the DEA and its partners have taken in 4,508 tons of pills. The DEA's New York Division alone collected over 21.4 tons of discarded prescription drugs from designated collection sites last October.

"It's important to offer New Yorkers an easy and safe option to dispose of their unused prescription medication," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We're making that possible with hundreds of locations across the State where people could get rid of unused pharmaceuticals. New York is battling the opioid epidemic plaguing our communities and investing in programs and services to help individuals struggling with abuse. This is one of many ways that we're combating the problem and ensuring the safety of New Yorkers."

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said, "Disposing of unused prescription medication properly is something everyone can do to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers. Easy access to unused medications increases the risk of diversion, accidental poisonings and overdoses. I urge everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to safely remove unused medications from their homes to safeguard themselves and others."

Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, "Prescription drug take-back days are a crucial way that we can keep these drugs out of the hands of people that should not have them, and help ensure that they are not misused. People across the state have the opportunity to play an important role in preventing substance use disorder through these take back events, and I urge anyone with unused and unwanted medications to find an event near them to safely dispose of these substances."

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Through Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is bolstering our efforts to keep pharmaceuticals out of our waterways by increasing opportunities for the public to properly and easily dispose of unwanted medications. The installation of these drop boxes in community pharmacies, hospitals, and facilities participating in New York's free drug take-back program are helping to protect and improve water quality and reducing potential adverse impacts to fish and aquatic organisms."

New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, "More than one third of prescription drugs used in the United States are taken by older adults, who average 9-13 prescriptions a year and take more than five different regular prescription medications. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day helps older New Yorkers and caregivers dispose of unwanted medications safely to avoid accidental misuse or abuse."

In addition to the law enforcement sites available to the public, 360 healthcare facilities across the state will also be participating in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The facilities, including institutional settings, such as long-term care facilities and nursing homes, will be disposing of their own unused and expired medications, to further reduce the potential of diversion of dangerous controlled substances.

The DEA cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches. The service is free and anonymous with no questions asked. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are disturbingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that most abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, there are concerns about unused pharmaceuticals getting into the wrong hands. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one U.S. citizen dies every 16 minutes from a drug overdose and has declared this public health threat an epidemic. Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines - throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet - pose potential health, safety and environmental hazards.

With technological advances in analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect low levels of drugs in surface water and groundwater. Some drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways. Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers and streams and can negatively affect the waterways. A national study conducted in 1999 and 2000 by the U.S. Geological Survey found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of rivers and streams tested. Medications adversely affect fish and other aquatic wildlife and increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

Under New York's $2 million pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program, the State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that 87 collection boxes have been distributed to participating retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state. The pilot program to safely collect unused and expired waste medication was launched by DEC in December 2017, and a total of 246 facilities have agreed to participate. New Yorkers are encouraged to use the medication collection box locations, which can be found by visiting the DEC website.

The pilot is funded with $2 million from the state's Environmental Protection Fund, which covers the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of up to 50 inner liners, pick up, transport and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a period of two years. At the end of the pilot program participants are required to continue the program, at their own expense, for six additional months. As proposed by Governor Cuomo, the Enacted Budget for 2018-19 includes an additional $1 million to support the expansion of this pilot program.

Covanta Environmental Solutions, a leading provider of environmental services to the healthcare sector and a wide range of other industries, was awarded the contract for the five-year program. Facilities will officially begin accepting unused and expired medications for safe and secure disposal once installation of the boxes has been completed.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, go to the DEA Diversion website.

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