Senator Says, If Pharmacies Install Drug Take-Back Kiosks, It Would Be A New Convenient Way For New Yorkers To Get Addictive Rx Drugs Out Of Medicine Cabinets & Homes

Schumer: Across Upstate New York, Opioid Abuse Is Up, Teens Are Accessing Excess Pain Pills & Criminals Are Stealing Rx Drugs

Schumer: Convenient Rx Drug Disposal Could Save Lives 

Standing in Kingston, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on major pharmacy chains and other large retailers to install drug take-back kiosks in their stores across Upstate New York. Schumer said prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in Ulster and Orange Counties, from college campuses, to neighborhood street corners, to inside a family’s home. While the DEA’s periodic Take-Back Program collects and disposes of hundreds of thousands of prescription drugs from Upstate New Yorkers a few times a year, it is not always convenient for the average person, according to the senator. Individuals are more likely to properly dispose of their prescription drugs at the neighborhood pharmacy they use year-round.  

“Far too many families and communities are torn apart by these highly-addictive, prescription opioid drugs. 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 – including our young people. I was proud to fight for and successfully help bring back the DEA’s National Drug Take-Back Days, but families need a year-round option to dispose of prescription drugs and prevent them from ending up in the hands of addicts and our youth,” said Schumer. “Installing drug take-back kiosks at local and larger retail pharmacies could be a new, convenient way for New Yorkers to get these additive drugs out of their homes, and right away, in order to help save lives.”

Schumer said more must be done to combat this scourge of drug abuse and overdose-related deaths in Ulster County and the greater Hudson Valley area. Therefore, Schumer argued that, if more pharmacies – primarily pharmacy chains and other large retailers – installed drug take-back kiosks, it could serve as a new, convenient way for New Yorkers to get addictive prescription drugs out of their medicine cabinets. In February of this year, Walgreen’s announced it would be installing drop-off kiosks in over 500 stores in 39 states, including New York. Schumer said that if more large chains and pharmacies did this, it could put a serious dent in getting these opioids out of homes and decrease their chance of winding up on the street. Schumer also urged pharmacies to target areas that have seen an uptick in this opioid and heroin scourge, like Ulster County.

In Ulster County, heroin seizures tripled between 2007 and 2014, and heroin- and opioid-related drug arrests increased from 30 percent of all drug arrests in 2012 to 70 percent of all drug arrests in 2015. According to a report from the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ulster County saw 95 drug-related fatalities from 2008 to 2012 alone, and that number could be expected to increase. Schumer cited a 2014 case in which 40 drug-trafficking arrests were made in Ulster County as part of the police department’s “Operation Spring Cleaning” to underscore the need for continued vigilance and additional resources. As a part of the April 2014 sting, police seized 1,000 bags of heroin, which is only 400 fewer bags than the Ulster County Sherriff’s Office seized in 2011 and 2012 combined.

Schumer continued, “Opioids are often a gateway to other illegal drugs such as heroin and, unfortunately, they are often easy to find simply by rummaging through a family medicine cabinet.”

Schumer said that opioids are often a gateway to other illegal drugs such as heroin and, unfortunately, they are often easy to find simply by rummaging through a family medicine cabinet. Schumer explained that people who become addicted to prescription opioids often then turn to even cheaper highs available on the street, such as heroin. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nationwide, 70 percent of those addicted to prescription drugs get them from homes, and only 5 percent get them from a drug dealer. As a result, Schumer has long supported measures to combat prescription drug abuse and ways to get prescription drugs and illegal opioids out of the hands of addicts or from finding their way onto the street.

In the United States, drug overdose deaths have exceeded car crashes as the number one cause of injury death. Two Americans die of drug overdoses every hour and 2,500 youths aged between 12 and 17 abuse prescription drugs for the first time every day. According to the CDC, opioids—a class of drugs that include prescription pain medications and heroin—were involved in 28,648 deaths nationwide in 2014. In a December 2015 report released by the Journal News, it found communities just north of New York City – like those in the Lower Hudson Valley – logged an annual average of 3,145 controlled-substance arrests from 2010 to 2014. According to the piece, medical-examiner records show heroin killed 230 people in the Lower Hudson Valley during that four-year time period – approximately 170 of those deaths were tied to opioid abuse. Finally, according to the Journal News’ report, federal agents seized nearly 2,000 pounds of heroin in the State of New York in 2015 – more than 10 times the number of pounds seized in 2009.

Schumer is responsible for bringing back the previously discontinued Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. In September 2015, Schumer successfully urged the agency to reverse course on its decision to discontinue the program, citing that it was hugely successful in reducing painkiller abuse cases and saving lives. Schumer said that while this program is effective, it is only held annually and, therefore, is not always a convenient and timely option for families to rid their medicine cabinets of these prescription drugs. Therefore, Schumer said private companies, pharmacies and larger retailers could help put an end to this scourge by installing kiosks at their locations that allow individuals to properly dispose of their prescription drugs at their neighborhood pharmacy or retailer year-round.  

Schumer was joined by Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

I commend Senator Schumer for his steadfast commitment to this issue.  I have always believed that to protect our children and remove more opioid medication from the streets, pharmacies have to more aggressively participate in take back efforts and make it easy for everyone to simply return the unused medication to the very place they purchased it,” said Ulster County Executive Michael P. Hein.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) appears below:

Dear NACDS President and CEO Steven Anderson:

I write today to highlight the importance of working together with all parts of the health care system, the federal government and private companies to tackle the critical issue of opioid abuse. Pharmacies are a vital part of the health care system and often times a common provider and source of healthcare information and resources for people. As such, I request that you work with your member companies and partners to help facilitate an increase of resources to address opioid abuse, specifically through pharmacy prescription drug take back service in New York. As you are aware, giving consumers the ability to return unwanted, unused or expired medications to local drop off points is a powerful tool in safeguarding communities of dangerous drugs.

In parts of New York such as the Hudson Valley drug rates are on the rise and I believe local pharmacies have an opportunity to implement a prescription drug take back service such as drug disposal kiosks. These kiosks and other similar services provide a safe and secure method to dispose of unused opioids and other medications  and can help fight the drug epidemic that has swept the region and throughout the state of New York. Specifically, Ulster County has voiced strong support for such a service and with drug-related death rates rapidly growing each year, it's an ideal host for this program. As your companies continue to develop strategies on the ways pharmacies can be one of the tools in getting medications off the streets, I ask that you closely look at and strongly consider Ulster County as a community where you install these services.

I am hoping to foster a greater relationship between your companies and the local communities throughout New York State that could work to stifle the escalating drug epidemic. By working hand in hand with your local pharmacists, staff and customers, together, we can identify the most fitting stores for possible implementation and ensure consumers are aware of the opportunity to rid their cabinets of opioids and other potentially deadly narcotics. Doing so, will help New York stem the tide of the opioid abuse crisis, prove such programs can be effective in stores of rural and urban settings, and be one part of the toolbox needed to combat this deadly epidemic. I am deeply concerned about the drug epidemic plaguing our country, and more specifically New York State, and hope this will be the first step towards making this part of the past.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to working with you and your member companies of this important issue. If there is any further assistance your companies may need, please do not hesitate to contact my office.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator


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