According to a June 2013 report from the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70-percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, with more than half taking two or more. Due to a number of factors, unused medications are more often than not improperly disposed. By requiring a manufacturer-paid drug take back program for unused prescription medications at pharmacies and other approved facilities, this bill will divert pharmaceuticals from the waste stream and lower the impact on our environment.
By their nature, pharmaceuticals are designed to have a biological consequence. Pharmaceuticals alter physiology at low doses and so can be particularly potent contaminants. While the human health impacts of drugs in our water are still largely unknown, several studies have demonstrated that fish exposed to wastewater treatment effluents containing pharmaceuticals can exhibit reproductive abnormalities. A February 2013 report in the journal Science found that psychiatric medicines in waterways can change the behavior of fish in rivers and streams.
Further, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, some compounds not easily removed during conventional wastewater treatment can persist in drinking water supplies and ultimately contaminate tap water. According to a 2008 Associated Press investigation, pharmaceuticals were found in the water of 24 major metropolitan suppliers.
Environmental Advocates has a few recommendations to strengthen this legislation:
- A convenience standard is needed to ensure that rural areas are also served, since chain pharmacies do not serve all areas of New York.
- Drop-boxes and mail-back envelopes should be required methods of collection.
- More specific guidance should be included for outreach and evaluation.
Preventing pharmaceuticals from entering our waterways by setting up a responsible take-back system is one of the easiest ways to prevent these drugs from entering our drinking water supplies.
This bill amends the public health law to require manufacturers of pharmaceutical medications to operate a drug take back program.