The Senate has unanimously passed S. 3397, the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, to allow patients to return unused medications safely and legally. Prior to the bill, medications that qualified as controlled substances could only be returned to authorized DEA agents. Under the new legislation, non-DEA authorized personnel as well as long term care facilities will be granted approval to dispose of controlled substances.
The move is aimed at closely monitoring the movement of medications and controlled substances. Many medications come with warnings about appropriate disposal, but few states have mechanisms to assist with such disposal. The state of Maine is currently operating a mail back program that provides patients with envelopes to mail left over medication back to one of several pharmacy sites for proper disposal. The Maine program has come under some scrutiny by lawmakers who are concerned that the envelopes are too easily identified in the mail, and may encourage rerouting of the medications because of their obvious pharmaceutical contents.
The DEA is looking forward to drafting regulations to monitor the return of pharmaceuticals in a way that is safe and convenient for consumers.