OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The abuse of old prescription drugs has been a leading cause of accidental overdosing deaths. Now there’s a bill in the State Legislature aimed getting expired meds out of circulation. But the proposal is in danger of dying, unless it moves forward in the Senate. Ruby de Luna reports.
The bill would require drug companies to fund a drug take-back program. Margaret Shield says the legislation addresses a problem that’s both a public health and public safety issue.
Shield is with King County’s Hazardous Waste Management Program. She’s also part of the Take Back Your Meds coalition that’s pushing the bill. “We think it’s important to create this system because there’s an epidemic of abuse and poisoning with prescription medicines in our communities," Shield says. "And we know these medicines are getting into our waterways and drinking water when they’re not disposed of properly. So this bill is designed to address both of those problems.”
Right now some local pharmacies and police agencies collect unused medications. But it’s not uniform statewide; it’s a piecemeal system. Supporters of the bill want to see a statewide program.
The biggest opposition against the take back program comes from drug companies. Representatives of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America say the US Drug Enforcement Administration is already developing guidelines for unused medicines. They want the state to wait until those guidelines come out.
But supporters of the take back program say federal agencies aren’t going to solve the problem, and will likely defer to states to take action.
Last year, a similar bill failed in the senate by one vote. It, too, had opposition from pharmaceutical companies.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network