Few pharmacies have set up programs to accept and destroy unwanted prescription drugs, despite a push by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to encourage drug disposal programs, The New York Times reports.
CVS and Walgreens, the two largest pharmacy chains, have not set up disposal programs. Only about 1 percent of U.S. pharmacies have such programs, the article notes. Costs and security risks are the largest obstacles.
While flushing unused pills down the toilet is legal, it is discouraged because the pills can pollute water sources. Throwing them away in household garbage that ends up in landfills also creates environmental hazards.
The DEA allows retail pharmacies, as well as pharmacies in hospitals and clinics, to collect unused drugs in secure receptacles. Pharmacies must shoulder the costs of collecting, safeguarding and incinerating the drugs. At least eight states ban pharmacies from taking back controlled substances.
Walgreens sells a do-it-yourself drug disposal kit for $3.99 that lets a person mix pills with water and other substances to make the contents inactive. "We consider this the safest and most convenient way to dispose of unused medications," said Walgreens spokesman James Graham.
CVS said it is fighting prescription drug abuse through other means, such as by selling the opioid overdose antidote naloxone without a prescription in 14 states.
The DEA has held 10 "take-back" days since 2010, which allow people to bring unwanted medications to designated locations for disposal. Most of these medications are drugs such as cholesterol medicines and antibiotics, not controlled substances.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by the pharmaceutical industry to review a lawsuit over a drug take-back program in Alameda County, California. The program requires drug companies to pay for drug disposal. It was the first law of its kind.