DEA Expands Set of Rules for Disposal of Pharmaceuticals

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Final Rule for the Disposal of Controlled Substances was recently published.

The Act, in an effort to curtail the prescription drug abuse epidemic, authorized DEA to develop and implement regulations that outline methods to transfer unused or unwanted pharmaceutical controlled substances to authorized collectors for the purpose of disposal. The Final Rule will take effect on October 9.

Prior to the passage of the Act, the Controlled Substances Act made no legal provisions for patients to rid themselves of unwanted pharmaceutical controlled substances except to give them to law enforcement while banning pharmacies, doctors’ offices and hospitals from accepting them. Most people flushed their unused drugs down the toilet, threw them in the trash or kept them in the medicine cabinet.

Unused medications in homes create a public health and safety concern, because they are highly susceptible to accidental ingestion, theft, misuse and abuse. Almost twice as many Americans (6.8 million) currently abuse pharmaceutical controlled substances than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and inhalants combined, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of people who misuse prescription painkillers for the first time report obtaining the drugs from friends or relatives, including from the home medicine cabinet.

As a temporary measure, DEA began hosting National Prescription Drug Take-Back events in September 2010. Since then, the DEA has sponsored 8 take-back days. Enormous public participation in those events resulted in the collection of more than 4.1 million pounds (over 2,100 tons) of medication at over 6,000 sites manned by law enforcement partners throughout all 50 states, the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories.

The Final Rule authorizes certain DEA registrants (manufacturers, distributors, reverse distributors, narcotic treatment programs, retail pharmacies and hospitals/clinics with an on-site pharmacy) to modify their registration with the DEA to become authorized 
All collectors may operate a collection receptacle at their registered location, and collectors with an on-site means of destruction may operate a mail-back program. Retail pharmacies and hospitals with an on-site pharmacy may operate collection receptacles at long-term care facilities.

The public may find authorized collectors by calling the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 800-882-9539.

Law enforcement continues to have autonomy with respect to how they collect pharmaceutical controlled substances from ultimate users, including holding take-back events. Any person or entity – DEA registrant or non-registrant – may partner with law enforcement to conduct take-back events.

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