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Pharmaceutical drugs

Massachusetts Mandates First Statewide Drug Take-Back Program

Pharmaceutical drugsPharmaceutical manufacturers in Massachusetts will be required to finance and manage safe disposal of unwanted medications under a drug abuse prevention bill signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker.

The bill, H.4056, An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention, makes Massachusetts the first state in the US to mandate drug take-back programs.

More than $1 billion in leftover drugs are thrown in the trash, flushed, or consigned to medicine cabinets each year. When flushed or put in the trash, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs can potentially contaminate waterways and the drinking water supply.

This also poses a major safety problem: last year, Massachusetts had 1,256 accidental drug-related deaths, according to the Product Stewardship Institute, which has promoted drug take back nationwide for the past decade.

“We applaud Massachusetts for recognizing that drug companies are responsible for safely managing leftover medicine and that this is a key element in reducing drug abuse,” said PSI CEO Scott Cassel in a statement. “This law will save money for Massachusetts governments, which traditionally bear the burden of paying for proper disposal. It will also cover the cost of safe medication disposal, including at local pharmacies.”

Since 2012, seven counties on the West Coast — six in California (Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Marin) and one in Washington (King) — passed laws that shift the cost burden for collecting and properly managing prescription drugs to drug makers. These laws will serve to guide the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as they develop rules and regulations to implement the new state law.

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