Drug Take-Back Bill Becomes Law in New York State

July 12, 2018

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) announced today that the Drug Take-Back Act has been signed into law. The new law – passed unanimously by both the Senate and the Assembly – establishes a robust, statewide program to provide safe pharmaceutical disposal for all New Yorkers.

The law requires chain pharmacies with ten or more U.S. locations to participate as drug collection sites to help ensure convenient access for residents. Drug manufacturers, rather than taxpayers or consumers, will pay for and manage the safe collection and disposal of unused medications. The law’s implementation will begin in mid-2019.

When the program is up and running, chain pharmacies will provide free and convenient drug disposal, while other authorized collectors (e.g. independent pharmacies, local law enforcement) would have the option of participating. Mail-order prescription companies will be required to provide prepaid envelopes to mail back unused drugs at no cost to consumers.

With the current Prescription Take Back Days available just a few times a year, unused medications accumulate in the home, where they are accessible to potential abusers and a danger to seniors, children, and pets. When improperly flushed down the drain unused drugs can contaminate our groundwater and waterways, and harm aquatic organisms as wastewater treatment and septic systems are not designed to remove these contaminants.

“The new Drug Take Back law will shift the cost of collection and disposal from government to the drug companies which put these products on the market," said Assemblyman Englebright. “This new statewide program will also enable residents to safely dispose drugs throughout the year, ensuring that unused painkillers will not be misused or abused and keeping medications out of our groundwater, streams, and coastal waters.

The new law designates the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to oversee the program. The DOH also has authority to develop regulations for effective implementation.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently released a comprehensive assessment that identified the need for a statewide manufacturer-funded program for consumers to safely dispose medications. Read the report at: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/pharmastewardshipreport.pdf.

New York is the fourth state to require manufacturers to fund and manage drug take-back, preceded by Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington, along with 22 local governments throughout the U.S.