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The Problem

Every 14 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from an unintentional drug overdose or accidental poisoning, with prescription medicines killing more Americans today than cocaine and heroin combined. Seven out of 10 people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family, often from medicine cabinets. When unwanted and expired drugs are flushed or thrown in the trash, they end up in waterways, harming aquatic life and contaminating drinking water sources. 

A Solution

Over a decade ago, PSI recognized these dangers and helped launch a national movement to safely dispose of leftover medications. We began by leading the charge to change a federal law and associated Drug Enforcement Administration regulations that now allow retail pharmacies, hospitals, narcotic treatment programs, law enforcement, and other convenient locations to collect controlled substances. These collections – called drug take-back programs – play a critical role in protecting public health by providing consumers with a safe method to easily dispose of unwanted and expired medicine free of charge.

Federal, state, and local government agencies nationwide agree that drug take-back is the most effective way to get rid of leftover drugs. Most agencies communicate this guidance clearly and consistently to the public thanks in part to PSI’s national efforts to standardize the message. PSI also recognized that securing sustainable funding was critical to creating and sustaining drug take-back programs nationwide. 

In 2012, Alameda County, California adopted the nation’s first extended producer responsibility (EPR) law for pharmaceuticals, which requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund and manage a drug take-back program and is based on a model law developed by PSI. Since then, many cities, counties, and states around the U.S. have passed similar laws, many of which are based on PSI’s legislative models. By holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for managing their products throughout the entire product lifecycle, EPR laws provide sustainable funding for proper drug disposal. If passing a drug take-back law is currently unfeasible in your community, setting up a voluntary program can also have a positive impact. 

Provides Technical Assistance

PSI hosts national meetings, webinars, and individual calls to provide expert guidance on pharmaceuticals stewardship issues and initiatives. PSI assists in developing pharmaceutical EPR legislation, improving drug take-back programs, and launching new efforts.

Advocates for EPR Legislation and Safe Drug Disposal Messaging
PSI monitors and advocates for pharmaceuticals stewardship legislation. We offer expert testimony supporting EPR bills and advice to strengthen legislation. PSI also tracks significant policy developments, like the pharmaceutical industry’s challenge of the Alameda County Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance in 2012 (see information on the legal battle and its implications) to keep our members and partners up to date. Finally, we actively support clear, consistent public messaging on safe drug disposal options. 

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Brings Stakeholders Together
PSI brings together state, local, and federal governments, industry, retailers, organizations, researchers, and others to develop effective solutions that address the need for convenient, safe disposal of leftover drugs. We work with a wide range of stakeholders on both voluntary initiatives and mandatory programs. 

To allow for an exchange of diverse perspectives, we organize and lead pharmaceutical waste stewardship summits, regional workshops, and conference calls. After these meetings, we engage multi-stakeholder workgroups to discuss data needs; best management practices for collection and disposal; and regulatory issues related to the collection, transport, and disposal of household pharmaceutical waste.

Conducts Research 
PSI offers research and analysis services to inform and shape product stewardship policy. In 2010, for instance, we conducted qualitative research in Florida, to better understand which factors determine how much medicine patients receive to address over-prescribing of prescription drugs. Our findings, along with presentations provided by other experts, informed a multi-stakeholder National Summit on Preventing Pharmaceutical Waste. You can read the report in its entirety here.
Develops Toolkits and Online Resources

PSI provides tools for governments, organizations, and other stakeholders that wish to start or promote drug take-back programs. PSI launched a Safe Drug Disposal Portal as part of the Great Lakes Pharmaceutical Stewardship project and continues to update the resources provided; in fact, we recently added an Outreach and Education Toolkit to make promoting drug take-back as easy as copy-and-paste. 

Read more about our impact here. For more information, please contact Vivian Fuhrman at (617) 236-4771.