Resolution proposing expansion of drug drop boxes passes in committee

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Patrick Sison
HCR1 would encourage drop boxes so people could dispose of pills such as these, opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

A resolution proposing the expansion of drug drop boxes in places ranging from police stations to pharmacies received a favorable recommendation from a Utah Senate committee. The resolution is currently awaiting Senate approval before heading to the governor’s desk.

HCR1 asks the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to approve a pilot program to place secure drug drop boxes at local pharmacies. This would allow Utahns to safely dispose of medications while preventing drugs from adversely impacting the environment or falling into the wrong hands.

Research shows most individuals who misuse prescription drugs have access to the drugs from a friend or relative, not a local drug dealer. According to the bill, in each month of 2016, 23 individuals died from a prescription opioid overdose in Utah ranking it fourth in the nation for drug overdose deaths.

Rep. Brad M. Daw, R-Orem, is sponsoring the bill with Sen. Evan J. Vickers, R-Cedar City.

“Utah is a geographically large state with a substantial portion of the population living in rural areas, and some citizens must drive over 20 miles to place their unused drugs in a designated drop box,” Daw said.

Currently, Utah has more than 150 drop boxes inside local law enforcement offices around the state. Last year alone, during Utah County drug take back events, officials recovered about 6,000 pounds of unused medications.

“It is very important that medications are properly disposed of to help eliminate the possibility that they will be misused,” Daw said. “Unused medication is the primary source of abused medication. There is also an impact on the environment when medications are improperly disposed of. Whether flushed down the toilet or just thrown away, they can make their way into our water.”

Vickers, a pharmacist, described the drop box process.

“The customer or the patient will just drop their medications into a secure container and (the pharmacy will) put it into a container and ship it out,” Vickers said.

Pat Bert from the Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment spoke in favor of the bill.

“We have to take a look into society in how we want to change how we’re addressing this issue,” Bert said. “Medications have a great purpose behind them, but at the same time if they’re misused or abused they can develop difficulties and outcomes.”

Dave David, who attended the hearing in representation of large Utah retail pharmacies, said he knows of pharmacists who have drop boxes and that he isn’t aware of any criminal incidents involving those boxes.  

“They’re very secure boxes and they look a lot like mailboxes. People walk in (and) drop their drugs in there that are unused prescriptions,” David continued. “We would encourage the passage of this that with a small change, I think we could really have an effective although private partnership to reclaim some of these unused drugs.”

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