National take-back days have allowed participating agencies to take more than 4.1 million pounds of unwanted or expired prescription medications out of circulation since DEA

DEA to Allow Pharmacies, Hospitals to Collect Unused Rx Drugs

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the new policy Sept. 8, saying it will help save lives and prevent misuse of prescription medications.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced a new Drug Enforcement Administration regulation that will allow pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and other authorized collectors to serve as authorized drop-off sites for unused prescription drugs. The new policy will help combat prescription drug misuse, which Holder on Sept. 8 called an "urgent and growing threat" to the nation's public health. The policy will permit long-term care facilities to collect controlled substances turned in by residents of those facilities, and prescription drug users everywhere will have permission to mail their unused medications to authorized collectors, according to DOJ's announcement.

It noted that more than half of the 41,300 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2011 involved prescription drugs, with opioid pain relievers involved in about 17,000 of those deaths.

"These shocking statistics illustrate that prescription drug addiction and abuse represent nothing less than a public health crisis," he said in a video message posted on DOJ website. "Every day, this crisis touches and devastates he lives of Americans from every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life."

DEA and partnering organizations have collected more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription pills through organized take-back days since 2010 and have set the next collection day for Sept. 27, 2014.

"The Department of Justice has taken aggressive steps to fight back—by targeting the illegal supply chain, by disrupting so-called 'pill mills,' and by expanding public health, education, and law enforcement efforts," Holder says in the video. "But we also recognize that much of this work must start at home. Nearly four in 10 teens who have misused or abused a prescription drug have obtained it from their parents' medicine cabinet. That's why, today, I am announcing that we are expanding drug take-back efforts by introducing new ways for people to safely dispose of old or unused prescription drugs. Through new DEA regulations, patients will be allowed to more easily join the fight against prescription drug abuse by dropping off their leftover medications at pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and other 'authorized collectors.' Beyond authorizing new drop-off sites, the new DEA rule will allow long-term care facilities to assist in the disposal of prescription controlled substances belonging to current or former residents. And most importantly, patients or their family members can mail their prescription controlled substances to an authorized collector using prepaid mail-back packages that can be obtained right from their pharmacy or from other locations like libraries and community centers."

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