Pharmaceutical Stewardship

Medicine take-back programs provide a secure and environmentally sound way to dispose of leftover or expired medicines and are a part of a comprehensive approach to preventing prescription drug abuse. Pharmaceutical stewardship policies require the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medicines to provide convenient collection options for consumers to properly dispose of unused medicines.

Approved Stewardship Plan

The Board of Health approves ordinance

When considering the negative consequences of improper medicine disposal, and the need to develop a sustainable model for secure medicine disposal, the Board of Health approved a pharmaceutical stewardship ordinance for Snohomish County. Board members have examined how the Secure Medicine Return Regulations enacted by the King County Board of Health, and similar laws passed in six California counties address community needs.

safe disposal of medicines a public health concern

About one-third of medicines sold to consumers go unused. This can occur due to someone switching medications, recovering from a serious illness, passing away, deciding not to take the medication as directed, or having “as needed” medicines expire before being used. Storing unwanted or expired medicines in our homes contributes to the epidemic of medicine abuse and preventable poisonings in our communities. Improper disposal of medicines down the drain or in the household trash adds to pharmaceutical pollution in the environment, including Puget Sound.

  • In Washington, 26% of poisonings and deaths were caused by someone else’s over-the-counter medications; 32% were caused by someone else’s prescription medications.
  • Drug overdoses now rank higher than car crashes as a cause of death in our country and statewide.
  • Overdoses are the number one cause of unintentional injury deaths in Snohomish County. About two-thirds of these overdoses deaths involve opioid prescription drugs or heroin.
  • In the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey, 11% of Snohomish County students reported using prescription drugs recreationally.
  • A SAMHSA 2011 report showed that 70% of prescription drug abusers get their pills from friends and family.
  • Partnership for a Drug Free America reported that 73% of teens said it was easy to get prescription drugs from a parent’s medicine cabinet.
  • In a 2015 Snohomish Health Survey, over half of the people who inject heroin have also abused prescription drugs like amphetamines or opioids. Of those people, 91% abused the prescription drugs first, before injecting heroin.
  • Pharmaceuticals are an emerging contaminant of concern in freshwater and marine water ecosystems and in drinking water supplies.

Didn't we already have secure medicine drop-off boxes in Snohomish County?

The Snohomish County Partnership for Secure Medicine Disposal had 25 law enforcement sites with medicine drop off boxes, as well as some other locations operated by local pharmacies.

While this program has been successful in collecting over 34,000 pounds of unwanted medicines since 2010, it is not a sustainable operation. Because there is a pressing need for more convenient locations, Snohomish County, as well as and many other jurisdictions in the country have proposed industry-provided pharmaceutical stewardship programs.