SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – Unused prescription and over-the-counter medicines pose a risk to our families, communities and the environment. To prevent misuse, medicines need to be stored safely in the home, and properly disposed when no longer needed. Throwing medicines away or flushing them down the toilet are not safe or appropriate disposal practices. Medicine take-back programs are part of a comprehensive approach to preventing prescription drug abuse, as well as a secure and environmentally sound way to dispose of leftover or expired medicines.
The Snohomish County Partnership for Secure Medicine Disposal was formed in 2009, and includes the Snohomish Health District, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Snohomish County, Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, Washington State Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies. The Partnership has collected and safely destroyed more than 34,000 pounds of household medicines since operations began in 2010 at local law enforcement offices.
Expanding access to secure medicine disposal programs is a key strategy for preventing prescription drug abuse and heroin use in the White House’s National Drug Control Strategy. However, the Health District and Sheriff’s Office no longer have the resources to continue the current program or to expand the drop boxes to more convenient pharmacy and hospital locations. An ad hoc committee, including members of the Snohomish County Board of Health and the Sheriff’s Office, was formed in February 2016 to look at options to continue this service through a pharmaceutical stewardship policy.
RESOURCES: Overview of Pharmaceutical Stewardship Policies
Data and Sources on Medicine Sales, Abuse, Preventable Poisonings and Pollution
Similar to other product stewardship programs for e-waste or batteries, the companies that make the medicines would be responsible for the full life cycle of their products, including safe and secure disposal. Producers of pharmaceuticals would work together through a stewardship organization to finance and operate a convenient medicine take-back program in our county, as well as expanding secure drop box locations and conducting community outreach to increase public awareness.
A policy outline discussed by the ad-hoc committee was shared with the full Board of Health on March 15. This policy outline largely follows a similar ordinance passed by King County Board of Health in 2013. The Health District is seeking feedback on the policy outline prior to drafting the ordinance.
RESOURCE: Policy Outline Under Consideration
There are a number of ways to share comments on the pharmaceutical stewardship policy being considered:
Snohomish Health District Attn: Pharmaceutical Stewardship Comments
3020 Rucker Ave, Ste 306
Everett, WA 98201
Comments will be accepted March 25-April 15. The subcommittee will reconvene in mid-April to review the comments received, and a draft ordinance is expected to be presented to the full board in May.
A webpage has been created for this policy process, and the public is encouraged to visit http://www.snohd.org/Waste/Medicine-Disposal/Pharmaceutical-Stewardship. This page will be kept updated with details for the meetings and comment period, as well as links to resources and educational materials.
The Snohomish Health District works for a safer and healthier community through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats. To read more about the District and for important health information, visit www.snohd.org.