TRENTON, N.J. – With today’s unanimous vote, the Assembly advanced a bill (A5667), sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Ned Thomson, requiring pharmacies and hospice programs to provide patients with information and methods to safely discard prescription medications.
Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed a similar bill (S3240) in May of this year because he wanted pharmacies and hospice programs to offer a drug disposal method approved by an independent lab. Under this bill, the disposal solutions must alter the characteristics of the prescription through chemical, biological, or physical means in order to have a beneficial effect on the environment. Collection boxes must also be marked by prominent signage.
“The importance of properly disposing of unwanted or unused medications and needles cannot be understated,” said DeCroce (R-Morris). “Our medicine cabinets can hold potentially deadly consequences if prescriptions like opioids get into the wrong hands.”
One in three Americans have expired or unused medication sitting in their bathroom cabinets. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 18 million Americans misused prescription medications at least once in 2017. A national survey found that more than 70 percent of people abusing opioids for nonmedical reasons get them from family or friends.
“My family experienced the terrible pain of opioid abuse when we lost my nephew to an overdose four years ago,” said Thomson (R-Monmouth). “I want to empower people to be a part of the solution by taking that extra step to safely and securely rid their homes of unused prescriptions so they can prevent a similar tragedy.”
Under the bill, pharmacies must have at least one method of disposal on-site such as over-the-counter deactivation solutions or secure drop boxes that are offered to the patient for purchase or at no cost. Patients also must receive written materials about the dangers of improper drug disposal and the ways to safely discard unused, unwanted, or expired drugs. If a patient in a hospice program wants to dispose of unused drugs, the hospice program must provide the patient with oral and written information on safe disposal and offer at least one method of drug disposal including over-the-counter solutions or collection boxes.
The bill also requires pharmacies to provide information on the safe disposal of used hypodermic syringes and needles to prevent the spread of disease and accidental injury. Information on safe needle disposal must also be available on the Department of Health’s website.
The bill is named “Charlie’s Law” for Charlie Van Tassel who died at the age of 33 after struggling with addiction for many years.
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