Unveiling a major initiative to reduce the diversion of prescription drugs in Pennsylvania communities hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced the Office of Attorney General will supply 300,000 drug deactivation and disposal pouches in 12 counties.
Through the new initiative, Attorney General Shapiro is acting to make sure everyone receiving a schedule II narcotic at a participating pharmacy will be offered a free disposal pouch, and that anyone can obtain a free pouch to safely dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs. Examples of schedule II narcotics include Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl, among other drugs.
“80 percent of heroin addicts start with the abuse of prescription drugs, and the vast majority of those who misuse these drugs got them from friends, relatives or a medicine cabinet,” Attorney General Shapiro said at Klingensmith’s Neighborly Drug Store in Indiana County. “The communities hit hardest by this epidemic have too often been ignored. We hear their pain and today, we’re bringing the fight into small towns and local pharmacies across the state to help.”
The drug pouches can deactivate up to 45 unwanted pills when warm water is added and the pouches are sealed. The pouches can then be safely disposed of in the trash. 278 pharmacies will provide pouches to their customers and anyone who requests them.
“We’re working with pharmacists, health care providers and the public to deactivate unused prescription drugs that are fueling this epidemic,” Shapiro said. “These deactivation pouches will help shut off that supply.”
In the first six months of 2017, the Office of Attorney General and the Pennsylvania National Guard destroyed 22.68 tons of unused prescription drugs collected from communities across Pennsylvania. By comparison, 26 tons of unused drugs were destroyed in all of 2016.
The Deterra Drug Deactivation pouches were purchased by the Office of Attorney General through its Community Drug Abuse Prevention Program, which is funded by fines assessed under Act 198 for driving under the influence and drug offenses.
The pouches are being distributed in counties hardest hit by the epidemic that also have poor access to take-back boxes, using data from the state Department of Health’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and the Department of Drug and Alcohol.
The counties are Blair, Butler, Cambria, Erie, Fayette, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer and Montour. Last year in Pennsylvania, 4,642 persons died of fatal overdoses – a 37 percent increase over 2015.
Attorney General Shapiro announced the drug deactivation and disposal pouch program outside Klingensmith’s, a family-owned pharmacy in Shelocta, where he was joined by store owner Dave Cippel, Indiana County DA Pat Dougherty, pharmacy representatives and local officials.
“We thank Klingensmith’s and every pharmacy and health care provider across Pennsylvania that has joined us,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “By working together, we can get unused prescription drugs out of circulation and make sure they never wind up in the wrong hands.”
“We are pleased to include our independent community pharmacy members in this important initiative to reduce prescription opioids available for diversion,” said Greg Drew, President of Value Drug Company. “Our efforts continue to focus on the key role of pharmacists in attacking the opioid epidemic, through patient and caregiver education, community involvement and disposal efforts such as this.”
“As a partner with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, we are proud to see our state take yet another step in fighting opioid abuse and misuse,” said Dr. John Gallagher, Opioid Task Force chair of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “The Deterra Drug Pouch program will give hard-hit areas of our state an easy way to dispose of left-over Schedule II narcotics. We believe this program has the potential to save many lives.”
Other participating distributors and pharmacies include Giant Martin’s, Rite Aid, Weis, McKesson, CVS Pharmacy/Target and Walmart/Sam’s Club. As part of the initiative, the Office of Attorney General has made a website available to the public to learn where the participating pharmacies are located.