How Are States Managing Leftover Meds

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) final rule on the collection and disposal of controlled substances, such as Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin—released September 9, 2014—will eventually give consumers much greater flexibility as to when, where, and how they can dispose of their unwanted medication. The rule allows manufacturers, distributors, reverse distributors, narcotic treatment programs, retail pharmacies, and hospitals/clinics with an on-site pharmacy to voluntarily apply for authorization and maintain on-site drug collection receptacles and mail-back programs.

However, in addition to following federal regulations regarding the disposal of controlled substances, states and municipalities must also support programs for safe pharmaceutical disposal. In every state, a range of public entities may be involved in regulating and supporting such programs, including environmental protection or natural resource agencies, public health departments, and local wastewater treatment facilities. Varying regulations, funding mechanisms, and outreach and education strategies make each state’s approach to handling home-generated pharmaceutical waste unique.

However, despite these differences, most states play an active role in promoting safe and secure disposal for unused or expired medications in the home, often promoting take-backs. In fact, 43 U.S. states provide information to residents on pharmaceutical disposal options in their state, and/or information on the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events (note,  the last DEA’s national take-back event will be held September 27, 2014). In addition, nine states have introduced legislation that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund and manage a comprehensive, statewide drug take-back program.

To see how each state in the U.S. is addressing the issue of household pharmaceutical waste, click on the links below.

Alabama Alaska Arizona
Arkansas California Colorado
Connecticut Delaware Washington DC
Florida Georgia Hawaii
Idaho Illinois Indiana
Iowa Kansas Kentucky
Louisiana Maine Maryland
Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota
Mississippi Missouri Montana
Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire
New Jersey New Mexico New York
North Carolina North Dakota Ohio
Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania
Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota
Tennessee Texas Utah
Vermont Virginia Washington
West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming


As home to the largest surface freshwater system on Earth, pharmaceutical stewardship is particularly important to the Great Lakes region. Click here to learn more about efforts to promote safe pharmaceutical management and disposal in the Great Lakes states.

In a report for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, PSI and the University of Wisconsin Extension estimated that only 2% of unused household pharmaceuticals are safely collected via take-back programs in Wisconsin, despite the rapid growth of ongoing drug take-back programs in the state. The report evaluated current statewide sales of household pharmaceuticals, the magnitude of unused pharmaceuticals in the state, and current barriers to higher collection rates. Click here to view the full report.

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