09.16.13

SCHUMER: ACROSS CAPITAL REGION, PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE IS UP CRIMINALS ARE STEALING RX DRUGS DURING HOME BURGLARIES; URGES DEA TO CUT RED TAPE THAT NOW PREVENTS PHARMACIES COMMUNITIES FROM HOSTING DRUG TAKE-BACK EVENTS, AND TO ADD EXTRA INCENTIVE BY FUNDING BUYBACK PROGRAMS

brDrug Take-Back Programs Get Addictive Rx Drugs Out of Medicine Cabinets And Homes, Yet Federal Regulations Now Prevent Capital Region Pharmacies From Hosting ThembrbrSchumer 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 BurglariesbrbrSchumer: Thieves Are More-and-More Likely To Raid the Medicine Cabinet Rather Than the Jewelry Box Drug Buyback Programs Reduce C

Today, at Lindsay Drug Company in Troy, 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 the opportunity to host community prescription drug takeback events.  Schumer also asked the DEA to establish a "buyback" program so that federal funds can be used to incentivize people to return their prescription drugs, to increase the takeback events' effectiveness. The Capital Region is a part of a growing prescription drug abuse epidemic and according to the Rensselaer DA's office, there's been a noticeable increase in drugrelated residential burglaries in Rensselaer County, both in rural areas and in Troy. National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that over 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives, while approximately 5 percent got them from a drug dealer or from the Internet. At present, takeback drug events are infrequent and can be inconvenient, which Schumer said is a missed opportunity to take prescription drugs off the streets and help dispose the medications responsibly.

 

Although a pending New York State bill would certify participating pharmacies to take back prescription medication, it cannot become a reality until the DEA amends regulations under the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. Therefore, Schumer urged 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 through takebacks, buybacks and other means. 

 

"Prescription drug abuse is a huge issue across the Capital Region, 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 takeback and buyback programs are the way to do that.  The DEA must change the regulations so that certified pharmacies can hold takeback 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 Katie Bonnier, the owner of Lindsay Drug Company, Rensselaer County District Attorney Rich McNally and Assemblyman John McDonald, who owns and operates Marra's Pharmacy in Cohoes, and is a cosponsor of the New York State law - which originated in the Assembly - that certifies participating pharmacies to take back Rx drugs.

 

Only the DEA has the authority to hold community takeback 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 takeback events, mailback 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 takebacks 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 and the Rensselaer District Attorney's office have said that many times when homes are broken into thieves are stealing prescription medication.  In addition, local law enforcement officials have reported a noticeable in residential burglaries throughout Troy and Rensselaer County.  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.

 

Just this year there were multiple burglaries in the Capital Region in which prescription drugs were the target. A 29year old man was caught after breaking into the Saratoga Hills mobile home park in Stillwater and stealing a large amount of prescription drugs.  Also last year, in Colonie, a man was charged with seconddegree burglary and thirddegree criminal mischief after breaking into an Albany County home in search of prescription drugs. The Rensselaer County DA's office reported two recent examples from the county: one in which a man confessed to over a dozen home burglaries motivated by a heroin habit that began with his abuse of prescription painkillers and another in which a 13year old committed suicide with prescription opiates in his system that were believed to be found in his home. 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 the Capital Region. From 2007 to 2011 in the Capital Region, admissions to substance abuse treatment programs of those under the age of 25 who cite prescription opiates as their drug of choice increased 190 percent, according to an official with the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. The Upstate New York Poison Control Center estimate that across their 54 county region, abuse is up over 150%. In 2011, 1,452 total abuse cases were reported in the Capital Region, of which: Albany County reported 499 cases; Rensselaer County reported 179 cases; Schenectady County reported 208 cases; and Schoharie County reported 56 cases.

 

A New York State bill (S.3944B2013) currently awaiting the Governor's signature, of which Assemblyman John McDonald is a cosponsor, would certify participating pharmacies so that they could hold takeback events and provide takeback receptacles. Although this bill has passed the New York State legislature, 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 takeback 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.  DEA agents attest that local takeback efforts have been successful, netting a total of 11,300 pounds of drugs, including over 5,000 pounds at one event last year.  Schumer made the case that more frequent and convenient takeback 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 painkiller drugs. In the Capital Region 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 painkillers, 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 painkiller drugs. In addition, local law enforcement officials have reported an increase in drugrelated residential burglaries throughout Troy and Rensselaer County.  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, like Rensselaer County, I believe drug buyback programs would strongly incentivize citizens to dispose of their leftover drugs and increase overall effectiveness of takeback programs. The DEA ought to expeditiously amend and approve regulations that would finally allow pharmacies and community organizations the opportunity to host community prescription painkiller 'takeback drug' events, which, while effective, are too infrequent and too inconvenient.

 

At present, only the DEA has the authority to host takeback 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.3944B2013) that would certify certain pharmacies to participate in takeback 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.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

U.S. Senator

 



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