Assemblymember Alan N. Maisel (D, Brooklyn), Chair of the NYS Assembly Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management, announced the introduction of A.10274, a bill that would require manufacturers of both prescription and over-the-counter drugs to be responsible for establishing drug take-back programs from hospitals and residential health care facilities.
Assemblymember Maisel stated "Health care facilities have been trapped in a "Catch-22" situation created by conflicting policies of the NYS Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation (DOH and DEC). On one hand DOH continues to instruct health care facilities to flush unwanted or expired drugs down the toilet which ultimately contributes to contamination of water supplies because municipal treatment plants are not capable of removing these chemicals. On the other hand, DEC recommends disposal of unwanted drugs by putting them in kitty litter and throwing them into the garbage."
Maisel further noted "Neither position makes any sense from an environmental and public health perspective. These mixed messages on proper disposal of medications have resulted in an era of uncertainty for New York’s health care facilities. This is neither fair nor environmentally sound. Drug manufacturers must be held accountable to address this growing problem."
"As we approach the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we have an opportunity to solve one serious environmental problem with a stroke of the pen. I am urging the Legislature and the Governor to support this initiative by passing the bill this session" urged Maisel.
Robert Murphy, Executive Vice-President for the NYS Health Facilities Assn. and the NYS Center for Assisted Living applauded Assemblymember Maisel for addressing this important policy concern. Mr. Murphy said "For far too long, long-term health care providers have been mired in a regulatory quagmire regarding the disposal of unused medications, which has fostered confusing and often conflicting mandates. It is time that we as a state develop a comprehensive and reasonable system for disposing of unused medications when appropriate, while encouraging the return or donation of these drugs."
Kathy Curtis, Policy Director for Clean and Healthy New York, Inc. said "We also applaud Assemblymember Maisel for sponsoring this common-sense initiative. Hopefully, it is but the next example of a growing trend in extended producer responsibility, which will conserve landfill space, protect drinking water, and create a less wasteful culture."
Cathleen Breen, Watershed Protection Coordinator for the NY Public Interest Research Group said "With so many questions about the health implications of pharmaceuticals being flushed into our drinking water supplies, we believe that pollution prevention is the best strategy. Assemblymember Maisel&rsquos legislation begins to address this growing public health problem by putting the onus squarely on drug makers to ensure proper disposal of medications at health care facilities."
Barbara Warren, RN, MS, Executive Director of Citizens&rsquo Environmental Coalition noted "The public should be taking only the drugs and doses prescribed by a doctor, not unregulated amounts of various medications that get into our drinking water. Assemblyman Maisel, with this bill, appropriately places responsibility for a drug take-back program on the manufacturers."
Claire L. Barnett, Executive Director of the Health Schools Network stated "We protect children from medications with child-proof caps. This bill would demand that producers take back drugs, saving taxpayers from having to install child-proof taps that filter out drug residues!"
Assemblymember Maisel said "Studies in recent years have revealed that drinking water is being contaminated with common medications. The presence of medications creates a serious public health problem, with the exposure of drugs to the general populace, most importantly our infants and young children"
The Maisel bill would prohibit the disposal of any drug by hospitals and residential health care facilities as mixed solid waste in a landfill; and only allows drug disposal through a drug collection program established in the bill. Each manufacturer would be responsible for all costs and the security of its drug collection program.
Manufacturers would be authorized to contract with a public or private third party to conduct the drug collection program, but all costs would be borne by the manufacturer. No fees could be charged to hospitals and residential health care facilities for drug collection. Such facilities would be required to dispose of all unused and expired drugs through the drug collection programs. Manufacturers would be required dispose of all collected drugs in an environmental sound manner, pursuant to rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Health. All manufacturers would be required to report biannually to the DEC on their drug collection programs.
The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) exempts household waste (including prescription and OTC drugs) from hazardous waste regulation. Furthermore, EPA has made clear that reverse distributors may not accept already dispensed medication as part of that waste stream. However, individual states may determine that drugs are hazardous wastes and must be managed as such.
There have been successful drug collection programs in the State of Washington (2 years), Alberta Province, Canada (10 years), Wisconsin Clean Sweep funds local municipal drug collection programs, the EPA Great Lakes Earth Day Challenge of 2008, Cumberland County, PA, Salt Lake City, UT, Price Chopper 2008 collection program, and other locations across the country. The DEC has also conducted small local drug collection program around the State in 2009 and 2010.
Maisel concluded "As important as these events are, they are not a replacement of an on-going, comprehensive collection effort to remove unwanted and expired drugs from hospitals and residential health care facilities. These facilities use significant quantities of drugs, which are not being properly handled when they expire or are no longer useful... It is time to act now to eliminate this significant threat to public health and our environment."