Massachusetts Launches First Statewide Medication Disposal Program with Walgreens

Massachusetts Launches First Statewide Medication Disposal Program with Walgreens

The new disposal program aims to help reduce prescription drug misuse.

As opioid and heroin misuse continues to plague the Commonwealth, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Walgreens have launched Massachusetts’ first statewide disposal program to reduce prescription drug misuse.

Walgreens is installing 13 drug takeback kiosks in pharmacies around the state, and it’s the first to join what Massachusetts hopes will be an ongoing program for easy disposal of unwanted, unused or expired medications at no cost and no questions asked. The launch is part of Walgreens’ effort to install safe medication disposal kiosks at more than 500 of its drugstores around the country.

Earlier this year, Baker signed a landmark opioid legislation into law to address the opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing the Commonwealth. “Opioid misuse and addiction often starts at home in our own medicine cabinets,” said Governor Charlie Baker in a press release. 

“Increasing drug takeback opportunities and installing free safe disposal kiosks in pharmacies across the Commonwealth is another step in the right direction as the Commonwealth works collaboratively to bend the trend on opioid and heroin misuse,” he said.

The kiosks are heavy metal containers equipped with a top, one-way opening drop slot and lock that will be mounted to the ground or wall with direct or video surveillance while the pharmacy is open. Individuals can place all prescriptions, including controlled substances and over-the-counter medications, in the kiosk for disposal.

“We are using an Environmental Protection Agency-authorized vendor, which collects and then safely disposes of the medication,” says Walgreens Spokesman Phil Caruso.

While Caruso says Walgreens is not disclosing the name of the hauler or the type of disposal the company is using to dispose of the medications, he would say the drugs, “do not go in the landfills.”

Caruso says he could not disclose the hauler or disposal methods as there are a number of regulations the company must follow at state and federal levels and that for security reasons, because of the nature of what is being transported and disposed of, the company does not want to disclose too much.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 15 million Americans misused a prescription drug in 2014. And that same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a national total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths, which include deaths from prescription and illicit drugs. That is a 6.5 percent increase from 2013, and a 140 percent increase since 2000.

Walgreens began corporate installation of its drug takeback kiosks in select stores in February, with the first box installed in Washington, D.C. The state-by-state installation began in April. To date, Walgreens has installed takeback kiosks in more than 500 of its stores in 35 states.

Installation of the statewide kiosks is another step forward in the Commonwealth’s commitment to battling the opioid and heroin epidemic that has impacted communities from Cape Cod to Western Massachusetts. Takeback kiosks are located at Walgreens stores in East Boston, Fall River, Framingham, Gloucester, Lowell, Malden, Quincy, Randolph, Roxbury, Stoneham, Stoughton, Springfield and Worcester.

In addition to offering a year-round solution for individuals to dispose of their medications, Walgreens continues to participate in Drug Enforcement Administration-sponsored National Prescription Drug Take Back Days, serving as a collection point in communities for law enforcement to collect unwanted, unused or expired medications for safe disposal.

The state has pushed for stakeholders to take responsibility for collection and disposal of unused, expired and unwanted medications.

“We’re pleased today to see another ally join the fight against prescription drug misuse, an issue that has fueled the crisis we face today,” said State Senator John F. Keenan in a press release. “The Commonwealth is asking every stakeholder to join this fight. We are preparing to implement the nation’s first statewide drug takeback requirement at the manufacturer level, and I commend Walgreens for this step to help make that program successful.”

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