TRENTON, N.J. – The Health and Senior Services Committee advanced a bill (A5667), sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce and Assemblyman Ned Thomson, requiring pharmacies and hospice programs to provide patients with information and methods to safely discard medications and needles.
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 render a drug unusable per federal regulations and meet DEP requirements concerning alternate disposal methods for medical waste that currently apply to the medical industry. In addition, drop boxes must follow federal Drug Enforcement Administration requirements for collected pharmaceuticals and use 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. Patients in hospice care programs who undergo changes in treatment that result in a discontinuation of a medication must also be educated about safe disposal and be offered a disposal method like an at-home solution or a secured collection box. Pharmacies and hospice programs will also give patients information on the safe disposal of used hypodermic syringes and needles to prevent the spread of disease and accidental injury.
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.