FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2013
SCHUMER: ACROSS CENTRAL NY, PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE IS UP & CRIMINALS ARE STEALING Rx DRUGS; WILL URGE DEA TO CUT RED TAPE THAT NOW PREVENTS PHARMACIES & COMMUNITIES FROM HOSTING DRUG TAKE-BACK EVENTS, & TO ADD EXTRA INCENTIVE BY FUNDING BUYBACK PROGRAMS
Drug Take-Back Programs Get Addictive Rx Drugs Out of Medicine Cabinets And Homes, Yet Federal Regulations Now Prevent CNY Pharmacies From Hosting Them – 70% of those Addicted to Rx Drugs Get them From Home, Family, or Friends, According to CDC
Schumer Calls On DEA To Change Rules To Allow Pharmacies To Hold Take-Back Programs, and To Provide Funds To Make Buyback Programs More Effective, Given Uptick in Drug-Related Residential Burglaries Across NY
Schumer: Drug Buyback Programs Reduce Crime, Safely Dispose of Dangerous Drugs & Save Lives
Today, at Kinney Drugs in Liverpool, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to expeditiously amend and approve regulations that would finally allow pharmacies and community organizations to host community prescription drug take-back events. Schumer also asked the DEA to establish a “buy-back” program so that federal funds can be used to incentivize people to return their prescription drugs, to increase the take-back events’ effectiveness. Central New York is a part of a growing prescription drug abuse epidemic; in 2011, there were 3,103 cases of reported prescription drug abuse in Central New York, and 1,620 in Onondaga County alone. Schumer noted that, nationwide, 70% of those addicted to prescription drugs get them from home, and only 5% get them from a drug dealer, according to the Centers for Disease Control. At present, take-back drug events are infrequent and can be inconvenient, which Schumer will say is a missed opportunity to take prescription drugs off the streets and help dispose of the medications responsibly.
Although a recently-passed New York State bill would certify participating pharmacies to hold take backs, it cannot become a reality until the DEA amends regulations under the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. Therefore, Schumer will urge the DEA to quickly amend these regulations so that the New York State legislation can be fully implemented, and to establish and fund programs that will increase the amount of medication turned over.
“Prescription drug abuse is a huge issue across Central New York, from college campuses, to street corners and your neighbor’s home. What’s more, these drugs have become the first target for burglars, who now go for the medicine cabinet in search of leftover pills before the jewelry box. We simply must do more to keep these drugs out of the wrong hands,” said Schumer. “The DEA needs to be working with local pharmacies, governments and law enforcement agencies to get prescription drugs off the street, and take-back and buyback programs are the way to do that. The DEA must change the regulations so that certified pharmacies can hold take-back events and provide this vital service, and should put more funding behind buybacks to incentivize people to turn over their prescription drugs.”
Schumer was joined by Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick, Kinney Drug Store Executives and Onondaga County prescription drug task force members. The Liverpool Kinney Drug Store was itself the victim of an attempted robbery involving prescription drugs. This April, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies responded to a robbery at the Kinney Drugs pharmacy store on Electronics Parkway. Deputies say a man passed a note to a pharmacist saying he had a gun and wanted pain medication.
Currently, only the DEA has the authority to hold community take-back events. According to the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, however, the DEA can amend current regulations to “allow public and private entities to develop a method of collection and disposal of controlled substances,” through events like take-back events, mail-back programs and collection receptacle locations. It has been over three years since the law’s passage, and over six months since the public comment period ended on the potential rule change, yet no new regulations have been announced or implemented. Although the public comment period for this rule ended in December, it has not yet been implemented. The DEA must amend federal regulations before pharmacy led take-backs can move forward. Schumer is urging the DEA take the New York State legislation into consideration when developing any new regulations, and said that the DEA must do everything possible to expedite this process so the private and public sectors can work together in the fight against prescription drug abuse.
Schumer is also advocating that the DEA establish a new ‘buyback’ program that would help local pharmacies, government agencies and law enforcement, establish, promote, and finance drug buybacks. By providing incentives for people to turn their prescription drugs in, and helping localities promote the events and the dangers of keeping leftover prescription drugs in the house, Schumer said that the events would become far more effective. Schumer said that additional funding could also allow these buybacks to be held more frequently.
Local detectives have reported that many times when homes are broken into thieves are stealing prescription medication. Even more alarming, many of these burglaries occur while the residents are home, since the criminals are often in a state of desperation, in need of feeding their addiction. Schumer provided examples of burglaries in Central New York in which prescription drugs were the target. In June of 2012, someone forced their way into the home of a 92-year-old woman and stole prescription drugs while she slept Monday night in the town of Brutus, according to Cayuga County sheriff's deputies. In November 2012, two Syracuse teens were arrested in a Wegmans parking lot for attempting to rob a 17-year old during a hydrocodone exchange. And in March of this year, in nearby Jefferson County, a Watertown man was sentenced to three years' federal probation for stealing prescription medicines from packages while working at the Watertown post office.
Schumer explained that his push, if successful, could help reduce these crime rates by making prescription drugs less prevalent, and noted that the excess of prescription drugs in the home is just as dangerous to family members. Schumer added that prescription drug abuse is already a major concern in Central New York. The Upstate New York Poison Control Center estimate that across their 54 county region, abuse is up over 150%. In 2011, there were 3,103 reported cases of prescription drug abuse in Central New York; 205 in Cayuga County, 105 in Cortland, 27 in Lewis, 113 in Madison, 701 in Oneida, 1,620 in Onondaga, and 332 in Oswego.
A New York State bill (S.3944B-2013) that was recently signed by the Governor would certify participating pharmacies so that they could hold take-back events and provide take-back receptacles. Although this bill has been passed and signed, it cannot be fully implemented until the DEA amends federal regulation. In light of the pending New York State bill, Schumer today urged the DEA to expeditiously amend regulations, giving pharmacies the authority to host take-back drug events. Schumer noted that proper disposal of prescription drugs is important also for environmental reasons because individuals will sometimes dispose of medications by flushing them down the toilet, which can adversely affect local water sources. Schumer made the case that more frequent and convenient take-back drug programs would get more and more prescription drugs off the streets.
Schumer has long supported measures to combat prescription drug abuse. Schumer launched a campaign to keep painkillers that contain hydrocodone out of the wrong hands. The Safe Prescribing Act of 2013 will reclassify hydrocodone as a Schedule II controlled substance – which would require a written or electronic prescription that must be signed by the practitioner, among other stricter requirements to authorize the use of this drug
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to DEA Administrator Leonhart appears below:
Dear Administrator Leonhart,
Over the past decade, prescription drug abuse has skyrocketed, and increased usage has brought about negative health and law enforcement impacts in communities all over the country. Pharmacies have long been the target of criminals and drug abusers seeking access to ready supplies of pain-killer drugs. In Central New York and elsewhere, this prescription drug crime scourge has led to tragedy and engendered significant reaction from my office and from local and federal law enforcement and drug regulation entities. These policy changes are beginning to have an impact. But more must be done to address the growing problem of the accumulation of these drugs in peoples’ homes, which are increasingly the target of criminals and drug abusers.
The rapid spread of the legal distribution of various pain-killers, to consumers who for various reasons use only a small portion of the amount prescribed to them, has led to the accumulation of these drugs in peoples’ homes. Across New York, local law enforcement authorities have increasingly cited medicine cabinets as burglary targets by those determined to access various pain-killer drugs. Even more alarming, many of these burglaries occur while the residents are home, since the criminals are often in a state of desperation, in need of feeding their addiction.
The bottom line is that more needs to be done to address this growing problem. Therefore, I also urge the DEA to establish a new program to promote and finance drug buybacks, similar to the extremely effective gun buyback programs employed by various cities and states across the country. By working with local partners across states like New York and with local governments, I believe drug buyback programs would strongly incentivize citizens to dispose of their leftover drugs and increase overall effectiveness of take-back programs. The DEA ought to expeditiously amend and approve regulations that would finally allow pharmacies and community organizations the opportunity to host community prescription pain-killer ‘take-back drug’ events, which, while effective, are too infrequent and too inconvenient.
At present, only the DEA has the authority to host take-back drug events. Although these events have been largely successful, even netting 740,000 pounds of medication on one collection day this past April, they do not happen nearly enough. Recently, the New York State Legislature passed a bill (S.3944B-2013) that would certify certain pharmacies to participate in take-back programs, but it cannot be fully implemented because of existing DEA regulations. Under the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, the DEA has the authority to amend current regulations to “allow public and private entities to develop a method of collection and disposal of controlled substances.” These regulations should be amended in consultation with pharmacies and local law enforcement who know the daily intricacies of implementing these programs.
It has been over three years since the law’s passage, and over six months since the public comment period ended on the potential rule change, yet no new regulations have been announced or implemented. I strongly urge the DEA take the New York State legislation into consideration when developing any new regulations and that the DEA does everything possible to expedite this process so the private and public sectors can work together in our fight against prescription drug abuse.
I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.
Charles E. Schumer