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Drug Take-Back Program Get Addictive Rx Drugs Out of Medicine Cabinets And Homes – 70% of Those Addicted to Rx Drugs Get Them From Home, Family, or Friends, Yet Federal Regulators Suspended Program, Even Though Painkiller Abuse Too Often Leads to Abuse of Even More Dangerous Drugs Like Heroin

Schumer: Opioid Abuse Has Wreaked Havoc Across Upstate NY, Resulting in 700+ Overdoses in 2015 Thus Far, And Year is Only Halfway Through – In Capital Region, There Have Been 79 Overdoses; In Central NY, 134; In Western NY, 151; In Rochester-Finger Lakes, 109; In Southern Tier, 88; In Hudson Valley, 107; In North Country, 43 

Schumer: National Drug Take-Back Days Reduce Crime, Safely Dispose of Dangerous Drugs & Help Save Lives 

On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to immediately reverse the agency’s decision to discontinue their semi-annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days. The DEA Take-Back program regularly collected and safely disposed of hundreds of thousands of prescription drugs from Upstate New Yorkers.  In 2014, after Schumer’s urging, the DEA finalized regulations that expanded options for the safe disposal of prescription drugs, including allowing for pharmacies and other DEA-approved sites to begin accepting and disposing of controlled substances. However, Schumer said because these pharmacies and hospitals are still developing ways to best provide that service, it is important the DEA continue this critical take-back program so Upstate New Yorkers have places to safely discard prescription drugs. Schumer said now is not the time to eliminate such an effective drug disposal program, especially without widespread adoption by pharmacies and hospitals for other safe disposal methods.

“Prescription drug abuse is a huge issue in across Upstate New York, from college campuses, to neighborhood street corners, and your own medicine cabinet. These painkiller drugs are powerfully addictive, inherently harmful and often lead to abuse of even more harmful drugs like heroin. We must do everything possible to stem this scourge by making sure opportunities for safe disposal are readily available and accessible, so we can keep these dangerous left-over prescriptions off the streets. That is why it is unacceptable the DEA has eliminated an overwhelmingly successful program that has brought in thousands of pounds of unwanted prescriptions over its four years of existence. While the pharmacies and hospitals work to put take-back programs in place on the local level, we cannot pull the carpet out from under them by discontinuing this critical federal resource,” said Senator Schumer. “So I am urging the DEA to reverse this decision and reinstate National Take Back Days, which help reduce crime, safely dispose of dangerous drugs and save lives.”

Following Schumer’s 2014 push, the DEA heeded his call and approved regulations that finally gave pharmacies and community organizations the opportunity to become authorized collectors of left-over prescription drugs. Schumer explained that the new rules will allow a pharmacy, hospital, or other DEA-approved site to register with the DEA and provide a method at their facility for people to dispose of old prescriptions whenever they are at the store. He noted that, nationwide, 70% of those addicted to prescription drugs get them from homes, and only 5% get them from a drug dealer, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Schumer said these drug take-backs help get the highly-addictive pills out of medicine cabinets and ensure people’s safety. According to the DEA, on its 9th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on September 27, 2014, the federal agency, along with its 4,076 national, tribal, and community law enforcement partners, collected 309 tons (617,150 pounds) of unwanted prescription drugs at 5,495 sites across the country. The DEA says this brought the total amount of drugs collected nationwide in four years of drug take-back days to 2,411 tons (4,823,251 pounds). According to DEA data, the September 2014 take-back allowed 198 law enforcement partners at 299 sites to collect 17.3 tons (38,798 pounds) across New York State alone. Schumer said this is evidence of a successful program that should not be discontinued.

Schumer noted that while this program could open doors for pharmacies, hospitals and other DEA- approved sites to host prescription drug take-backs, these places are still working to develop ways to best provide that service and it is going to take time. As a result, Schumer said it is important the DEA continue its own critical take-back program so Upstate New Yorkers have opportunities to safely discard prescription drugs. However, Schumer said that on the heels of the finalization of these new rules, the DEA recently decided to discontinue its National Drug Take Back Days, which safely disposed of hundreds of thousands of tons of prescription drugs. Moreover, in the rules, the DEA does not provide a way for these pharmacies, hospitals or other approved sites to pay for the disposal of collected substances, and so pharmacy participation has been limited. As a result, Schumer is urging the DEA to resume National Prescription Take Back Days until more companies and pharmacies can begin to figure out a way to permanently establish their own take-back programs. Schumer argued that now is not the time to eliminate such an effective drug disposal program, especially without widespread adoption by pharmacies and hospitals for other safe disposal methods. Schumer said these National Take Back Days have helped communities decrease break-ins and drug abuse by keeping these dangerous drugs out of addicts’ hands and off the streets.

During the conference call, Schumer will present county by county data on the number of opioid-related overdoes in Upstate New York. According to NY Poison Control, across Upstate New York there have been 711 opioid-related overdoses in 2015 alone. Schumer said that because 2015 is only halfway through, these numbers could grow significantly larger:

·         In the Capital Region, there have been 79 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

·         In Western New York, there have been 151 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

·         In Central New York, there have been 134 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

·         In the Rochester-Finger Lakes, there have been 109 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

·         In the Southern Tier, there have been 88 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

·         In the Hudson Valley, there have been 107 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

·         In the North Country, there have been 43 opioid overdoses in 2015 thus far.

Schumer has long supported measures to combat prescription drug abuse, and noted prescription drugs in particular are often a gateway to other illegal opioids such as heroin. He reported that community organizations say that people who become addicted to prescription opioids are turning to even cheaper highs available on the street, such as heroin.  Schumer has long fought for an increase in federal appropriations to fund the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, which provides local law enforcement the resources they need to combat opioid abuse throughout New York. In addition, Schumer successfully urged the DEA to reclassify painkillers like 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.