By Bill Parry
For decades environmentalists have warned of the dangers of improper disposal of prescription drugs and the harm it is doing to the water supple. Late last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the roll-out of a program in which 280 locations statewide would begin accepting unused prescription drugs, but state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) believes more should be done to battle the potential safety, health and environmental hazards.
As a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Addabbo is urging final action on legislation S. 6750 he co-sponsors that will require chain pharmacies to collect unused, unwanted or expired controlled substances from the public.
“This bill has passed the Senate and Assembly, with bi-partisan support. and will be sent to the governor for final consideration by the end of the year,” Addabbo said. “I hope he will sign it into law to help protect both the environment and public health from drugs thrown into the trash or flushed down the drain.”
In April, Americans turned in 450 tons of prescription drugs at nearly 4,050 sites operated by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, and a police precinct in Addabbo’s district took part.
“This event offered my constituents a valuable opportunity to safely dispose of old drugs,” he said. “But we need to provide New Yorkers with more consistent access to safe and secure medication disposal sites. Final approval of this legislation requiring chain pharmacies to collect these potentially dangerous substances would be very helpful in addressing this issue.”
A 2014 study by the federal Environmental Protection Agency tested samples from 50 large wastewater treatment plants nationwide for the presence of 56 drugs. More than half the samples tested positive for at least 25 of the monitored medications.
According to the Mayo Clinic, almost 70 percent of all Americans take at least one prescription medication, which is up 48 percent from 2007-2008. Another concern is that the improper disposal of controlled substances or keeping them sitting in medicine cabinets for long periods of time is adding to the opioid addiction epidemic across the state and nation.
“We need to make it easier for consumers to dispose of unwanted medication in a safe and secure manner, and requiring large pharmacies operating in New York to offer collection services is part of the solution,” Addabbo said. “This bill would also address the drug addiction issue by reducing the availability of unused prescription drugs.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo signed another measure on Veterans Day allowing medical marijuana to be used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill allows military veterans, police officers and firefighters and domestic violence survivors access to the state’s growing marijuana dispensary system.
“It is particularly heartening that so many of our servicemen and women come home from serving their country to struggle with PTSD, which can be a very isolating and misunderstood condition,” Addabbo said. “No man or woman who has stepped up and made brave sacrifices on behalf of our nation in the armed forces should be without resources to address the impact of their service on their physical, emotional and psychological health.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr