Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley, Ernst op-ed: Clear Out Unused Medicines on National Take-Back Day

Oct 23, 2020
By U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst
 
Do you have unused medication from last year’s harvest prescribed to treat back pain still in the medicine cabinet? Or, perhaps diabetic test strips piling up or pain pills prescribed months ago for your teen’s wisdom teeth removal?
 
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), unused, unneeded and expired prescription medicines present risk for misuse and theft. Responsible disposal can help prevent accidental poisoning, addiction and overdose deaths.
 
The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 9.9 million Americans misused controlled prescription medicines. The majority of the misused drugs was obtained from the home of a family or friend. The United States is making strides to fight a nationwide opioid epidemic. The Trump administration has stepped up enforcement to combat the diversion of prescription drugs, issued guidelines to address overprescribing and beefed up outreach to educate patients and prescribers. In Congress, we’ve supported billions of dollars for prevention, treatment and recovery to save lives and livelihoods. Getting rid of unneeded medication is a responsible pro-active step every household can take to keep their families strong and communities safe.
 
There’s a good chance many households here in Iowa have unused prescription medicines cluttering kitchen drawers, countertops and bathroom cabinets. Some may be left in the cab of a tractor or forgotten in your car’s glove box. Now’s a good time to take stock of what medicine is still needed and clear out the rest. Doing so will help prevent intentional and unintentional use of medicines by seniors, kids and even pets.
 
We encourage Iowans to take advantage of “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in communities across the state. It’s been ten years since the DEA first teamed up with state and local agencies to provide a simple way for households to drop off unneeded prescription drugs. Authorized collection sites properly dispose of potentially dangerous, expired and unused medication in accordance with federal law.
 
The twice yearly public service events are anonymous, free-of-charge and convenient. As a COVID-19 precaution, some take-back events are offering drive-through options.
 
Due to the pandemic, the DEA cancelled the Take-Back Day scheduled in April. That likely means Iowa households may have a stockpile of pills, patches, cough syrup and pet medications for disposal this fall. Iowans should take note that syringes, needles, thermometers, IV bags and personal care products are not being collected.
 
Mark your calendars for the 19th National Drug Take-Back Day. The DEA collected 441.5 tons of medicine last October at 6,174 collection sites across the country. Use the online search tool to find a location nearest you. Or call (800) 882-9539. Make the most of this no-questions-asked collection to protect your household.
 
If unable to participate, the DEA has issued guidance for safe at-home disposal. The DEA recommends mixing unneeded medicine with unsavory substances such as dirt, used coffee grounds or kitty litter to deter others from ingesting them after disposal. Also, when tossing out labeled prescription packaging, be sure to remove identifying personal information to protect one’s privacy. Note that some medications should not be tossed into the trash. For example, inhalers for asthma may be hazardous if punctured or thrown into a fire.
 
To every Iowan who is a survivor or still fighting addiction, and to those who have lost a loved one to an overdose death, we’re committed to help meet these challenges and make our families stronger and our communities safer. That includes Senator Grassley’s investigation examining the financial relationships between pharmaceutical manufacturers and tax-exempt organizations to look at how money may influence pain treatment practices and policies. Senator Ernst’s own bipartisan bill, the AIDD Act, was passed into law to increase participation in federal prescription drug take-back programs.  We’ve also passed legislation to hold drug distributors, manufacturers and pharmacies accountable to identify and prevent suspicious orders of controlled substances.
 
We’ll continue fighting in the U.S. Senate to keep dangerous drugs out of the wrong hands. National Take-Back Day is a good day for Iowans to do your part. Bring in unneeded medicines and prevent accidental poisoning, misuse and overdose. The proper disposal of unused drugs can save precious lives.