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BRING Recycling > Advocacy > Prescription Drug Take-Back  > Manufacturer-Funded Drug Take-back Policy

Manufacturer-Funded Drug Take-back Policy


Manufacturer-Funded Drug Take-back Policy

A producer-funded stewardship law governing prescription and over the counter medicines is the most cost-effective and safe option for disposing of unused medicine. Below are some of the most common questions and answers about drug take-back programs.

Can I donate unused medicines instead of disposing of them?

Most medicines that have been used or stored at home are inappropriate for donation or re-dispensing because it is impossible to verify that they have not been tampered with and have been stored safely.

Won’t regulations make drug take-back programs too difficult to operate?

No. Programs in operation at some pharmacies and some law enforcement offices successfully comply with all state and federal regulations. The DEA’s Rule for Disposal of Controlled Substances, in response to the federal Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, defines protocols for take-back programs.

The DEA has authorized easy options for transporting collected drugs to disposal facilities, including the use of common carriers and reverse distributors. Companies such as Sharps Compliance provide take-back services for collection, shipping, and disposal of medicines, including controlled substances.

How much will a statewide medicine take-back program cost?

The estimated annual cost of a statewide medicine take-back program is 0.1 percent of annual Oregon medicine sales. The total cost of the program depends on details like its design and on the amount of medicines collected. Ongoing costs of a comprehensive medicine take-back program include the costs of secure drop boxes, collection supplies, transportation, disposal, promotion, and administration. An estimate for Oregon can be extrapolated from cost projections for a Washington State pharmaceutical stewardship program.

Why collect over-the-counter medicines too? Aren’t prescription drugs the problem?

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are commonly abused, especially by teens. And OTC medicines often cause preventable poisonings at home. Improper disposal of OTC medicines through flushing or trash disposal adds to environmental pollution by pharmaceuticals. The FDA regulates prescription and OTC drugs based on whether a drug is safe for self-medication when used as instructed, not if it poses a risk of abuse or poisoning if misused. Environmental safety concerns do factor into the decision. Some OTC drugs can be prescribed at a higher dosage or be purchased as a prescription under certain health plans.

Many consumers do not differentiate between over-the-counter drugs and prescription medicines, making it unrealistic to expect them to dispose of unused drugs separately by type. Excluding OTC medicines from a take-back program would burden authorized collectors. Encouraging consumers to dispose of all unused or expired medicine via a take-back program is the safest, as well as the most convenient and effective approach.

Are pharmaceutical chemicals a problem in our water?

Environmental organizations, health professionals, scientists, and members of the pharmaceutical industry share concerns about pharmaceutical pollution, even at low concentrations. Research demonstrates that low-level pharmaceutical chemical exposure harms aquatic species and may cause other health problems.

Learn more:

Doesn’t human excretion cause all of the pharmaceutical pollution in our environment?

Scientific analyses cannot distinguish between the many sources contributing to pharmaceutical pollution, including human excretion, improper drug disposal, and manufacturing releases. So it is currently impossible to measure the amount from each source contaminating our water. Because we do not use about 30 percent of the drugs we buy, it is safest to prevent these medicines from entering our water supply through an effective take-back program.

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