Senator Durbin & Rep. Duckworth: Pharmaceutical Industry Has a Responsibility in Curtailing Opioid Overdose Epidemic

Illinois members of Congress say programs to dispose of leftover drugs – common in other countries – should be financial priority for pharmaceutical industry

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 15, 2016.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) yesterday called on the President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to take financial responsibility for the industry’s role in curtailing the opioid overdose epidemic as other major companies have done.  Early this year, Illinois-based Walgreens announced that it will install safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 of their drugstores to help in this effort.

Durbin and Duckworth noted that other countries and some large counties in the U.S. have extended producer responsibility programs which help ensure that pharmaceutical companies are legally held accountable for the environmental and social impacts of their drugs throughout the lifecycle – including drug take-back and responsible disposal.

“Solving this opioid overdose crisis will not be easy.  It will require a comprehensive solution involving stakeholders in both the public and private sectors, and we have already seen commitments from medical schools, pharmacies, and law enforcement,” Durbin and Duckworth wrote.  “As an organization that shares in the responsibility for dealing with this problem, we write today to enlist your help in tackling one component of this crisis: getting leftover and unused medications off the street and out of our medicine cabinets.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids – including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin – killed more than 28,000 people in 2014.  Four out of five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioids.  One way to help combat misuse of prescription opioids is to get unused medications out of people’s homes where they are prone to misuse, abuse, and diversion.  Drug “take-back programs” can be especially helpful in providing a secure locations for people to dispose of their unused pills. However, voluntary initiatives to establish these collection receptacles for disposal have been minimal to date, largely because of cost.  This is where the pharmaceutical industry can, and should, help.

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In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers—or more than one painkiller prescription for every single adult living in our country. On September 26, 2015, the DEA hosted a take-back day that collected more than 702,365 pounds—351 tons—of unused, expired, or unwanted drugs across the United States.  In response to the sheer volume of unused and dangerous painkillers in U.S. households, several major counties, including Alameda County, California, and King County, Washington, have passed ordinances to require pharmaceutical manufacturers to underwrite and/or manage drug take-back programs.

Text of the letter is below.

April 14, 2016

Steve Ubl, President and CEO

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

950 F Street, NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. Ubl:

Our nation is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids – including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin – killed more than 28,000 people in 2014.  Four out of five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioids.  Solving this opioid overdose crisis will not be easy.  It will require a comprehensive solution involving stakeholders in both the public and private sectors, and we have already seen commitments from medical schools, pharmacies, and law enforcement.  As an organization that shares in the responsibility for dealing with this problem, we write today to enlist your help in tackling one component of this crisis: getting leftover and unused medications off the street and out of our medicine cabinets.

In September 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) finalized regulations to expand the disposal options for controlled substances by allowing authorized entities to maintain collection receptacles.  Beginning in October 2014, authorized manufacturers, distributors, reverse distributors, narcotic treatment programs, hospitals and clinics with an on-site pharmacy, and retail pharmacies could voluntarily establish “take-back programs” that include disposal kiosks.

However, voluntary initiatives to establish these collection receptacles has been minimal to date.  An October 2015 New York Times article noted that “only about 1 percent of American pharmacies have set up disposal programs.”  The primary obstacle in expanding such voluntary programs among pharmacies are the cost concerns around security, storage, transportation, and disposal.  We see this as a unique opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to financially support these programs and to be part of the solution.

In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers—or more than one painkiller prescription for every single adult living in our country. On September 26, 2015, the DEA hosted a take-back day that collected more than 702,365 pounds—351 tons—of unused, expired, or unwanted drugs across the United States. In light of the infrequency of these annual events and the sheer volume of prescription drugs being prescribed by physicians, more must be done to reduce the excess number of pills that end up in household medicine cabinets, where they are a potent threat for misuse and abuse.  This is why we believe your member companies have a financial responsibility to help establish and oversee programs to dispose of these leftover drugs.

There is precedence for such involvement on the part of the pharmaceutical industry.  Several major United States counties, including Alameda County, California, and King County, Washington, have passed ordinances to require pharmaceutical manufacturers to underwrite and/or manage drug take-back programs.  In Canada, Mexico, and many European countries, pharmaceutical companies also have extended producer responsibility (EPR), in which they are legally held accountable for the environmental and social impacts of the product throughout its lifecycle, including drug take-back and responsible disposal.

We believe that such EPR programs have merit and should strongly be considered in the face of the ongoing prescription opioid crisis.  While there are numerous aspects of this complicated epidemic, we support and encourage concrete stewardship actions by pharmaceutical companies to be a part of the solution by providing financial and environmental support for the lifecycle of their products.

We look forward to your immediate consideration.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

 

Richard J. Durbin                                                        Tammy Duckworth

United States Senator                                                 United States Representative

Source: http://www.duckworth.house.gov