By Stacy Kess
A box placed in Buehler’s Fresh Foods for 10 weeks this spring may have changed the future of how unused and unwanted medications are collected in Delaware — and around the country.
Drug drop-off boxes are seen around the state and county in law enforcement offices. Delaware County has four such mailbox-like receptacles.
“Statistics show that about 70 percent of the meds that are abused or misused come from friends or family,” said Kenton Beachy, Chief Operating Officer of Recovery & Prevention Resources of Delaware and Morrow Counties, Inc. “The drop boxes are designed to get those medications out of people’s homes, out of the medicine cabinet and off the streets.”
In the spring, Drug Free Delaware worked with the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office to put a drop box in a more “user-friendly location,” the pharmacy at Buehler’s.
Over 10 weeks, the box was used more often than the boxes at law enforcement locations, with the exception of a box at the Delaware Police Department. From Feb. 1 through May 31, the DPD box collected 231 pounds of medication, while the other three boxes (at Shawnee Hills Police Department, Genoa Township Police Department and the DCSO office) collected 115 pounds total. Over 10 weeks during that time period, the Buehler’s box collected 100 pounds of unused medications.
“The pharmacy location is just more customer-friendly,” Beachy said. “It makes a lot more sense to drop off your unused and unneeded meds where you pick them up.”
Despite the success of the box, it was removed after the Ohio Board of Pharmacy was notified of the box, which was neither in line with OBP regulations.
Drug Free Delaware pressed the issue with OBP: why not have drug drop boxes in pharmacies?
In fact, in Washington State, drop boxes are places in pharmacies, but do not accept controlled substances such as Percocet (oxycodone-acetaminophen; a schedule 2 controlled substance), Vicodin (hydrocodone-acetaminophen; a schedule 3 controlled substance) or Oxycontin (extended release oxycodone; a schedule 2 controlled substance).
The problem, said Kyle Parker, the executive director of OBP in a letter to Drug Free Delaware, is that DEA rules don’t allow the collection of unused narcotics outside of drop boxes in law enforcement offices.
“Condoning such an action would be counter to the mission of the board and leave pharmacies that participate in these programs at-risk for enforcement actions by the DEA,” he wrote. “The Board does recognize the convenience and effectiveness that drug disposal boxes in pharmacies and other locations would provide. Therefore, the board has recently approved an addition to our drug take back rules that would permit this practice upon the publishing of the final take back rules by the DEA.”
Those rules, Beachy said, will include a provision to allow drop boxes in pharmacies and have been in draft form since 2012. The hold up, he learned, is within the Office of Management and Budget.
“Our little coalition succeeded in changing state policy,” Beachy said.
“It’s been four years, and these regulations still aren’t available after four years.”
Draft was published almost two years ago.
“The real question is, what’s the problem,” Beachy said. “What we’ve accomplished is those (Ohio Board of Pharmacy) policies are in place now.”
Building on that success, Drug Free Delaware drafted a letter to Senator Rob Portman to put pressure on OMB and the DEA to publish the rules.
“The stage is set, then, for the drop-box to potentially be re-placed at Buehler’s and perhaps other pharmacies in Delaware County as soon as those rules are published,” Beachy wrote in an email to those involved in Drug Free Delaware.
Reporter Stacy Kess can be found on Twitter @StacyMKess.