Chain drug stores in Westchester County may soon face heavy fines if they fail to allow customers to drop-off unused medication if a bill recently proposed by lawmakers passes.
The bill would require pharmacies with more than three locations in the county to accept unused medication, including the installation of signage denoting the locations as drop-off points and creation of a hotline and website to list sites where medication can be left.
The bill was introduced by Legislator MaryJane Shimsky last year. Companies that fail to comply with the proposed law would allow for fines up to $1,000 per day.
According to officials, this Product Stewardship Program, which has already been made law in Rockland County, is intended to help stem the tide of widespread drug abuse, particularly of opioids, in Westchester County. The bill also aims to help end the practice of dumping unwanted medications down the drain or in the garbage. These disposed pills often find a way into our waterways and landfills, and have serious environmental repercussion.
"All too often, the cycle of addiction begins with extra painkillers lying around someone's medicine cabinet. People are often prescribed large quantities of serious drugs to deal with short-term pain,” Shimsky stated last year. “This initial prescription can quickly lead to dependence, which in turn can lead to abuse of leftover pills and escalation to illegal narcotics. Another path to addiction results from extra, unused pain medications ending up in the possession of others -- stolen from medicine cabinets by persons who are already addicted, or by teenagers experimenting with drugs recreationally."
In 2015, 107 Westchester residents died from overdoses. According to the County Medical Examiner’s report, one family of drug, opioids and opiates which includes heroin, were the cause of 83% of these deaths.
"This proposal, which increases the number of places where people can return unused drugs, can help reduce the number of unused prescriptions left in people's homes, cutting off a major source of the first pill that gets a victim hooked,” Shimsky added. "And when one adds to the calculus the alarming cocktail of pharmaceuticals contaminating our water, increasing the opportunities for people to safely rid their medicine cabinets of prescription drugs they no longer need is a no-brainer."
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