Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bill to spur disposal of painkillers goes to Bevin; CVS says nine of its Kentucky pharmacies now have medication-disposal units

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A bill designed to inform Kentuckians about the importance of getting rid of their unused painkillers, and make it easier to do so properly, has been delivered to the governor's desk for his signature.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr
Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, would require pharmacists to inform customers about how to safely dispose of unused opioids and other controlled substances, and either provide or offer to sell them a product designed to neutralize drugs for disposal -- or provide on-site disposal.

Kerr told Kentucky Health News that shifting to a mindset of immediately getting rid of any unused pain medications will require a "cultural shift,"  much like when we had to learn to put our seat-belts on: "It took us a while."

But the shift is important, she said, because more than 70 percent of all opioid addictions result from misuse of prescription drugs.

"It's important that we educate our public about how important it is to clean out our medicine cabinets," she said. "It sounds so simplistic, but that is where the problem is starting. None of us realize that we kind of hoard our medications, even when we don't mean to." 

Kerr said many states are looking to see what kind of opioid disposal law Kentucky will pass. "This is a cultural change," she said. "We will be a national model on this."

The bill penalties has of $25 for a first offense, $100 for a second and $200 for each subsequent violation -- and a provision that Medicaid will not pay for the disposal aid. Changes made by a House committee allow pharmacies to give patients the required information orally, in writing or through signs, and clarify that the neutralizing agent can be made available for purchase or provided at no charge.

The bill passed the House 95-0 on March 22 with no discussion. The Senate agreed to the changes and passed the revised bill 36-1 on March 27, sending it to Gov. Matt Bevin.

A pilot program and some pharmacies are already working on this issue

On the same day SB 6 got final passage, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced that Kentucky is teaming up with CVS Health to launch a new medication-disposal program. It involves the placement of in-store disposal units in nine of the company's 24-hour pharmacies.

“One of the most dangerous places in a home is a medicine cabinet with unused opioids,” Beshear said in a news release. “Thanks to this initiative, many Kentuckians now have a convenient way to make their home safer and stop addiction before it starts by safely disposing of drugs at their local pharmacy.”

The units are located at the Harrodsburg Road and Todds Road stores in Lexington and in Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Georgetown, Louisville and Paducah. CVS said it will install units in 750 locations across the country.

In August, Beshear launched a pilot program designed to help residents in selected Kentucky locations to safely dispose of their prescription drugs in their homes.  This  program is working to distribute 50,000 "drug deactivation pouches," which has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids, says a news release.

Edward C. Baig of USA Today reports that Walmart already offers a solution to dispose of unused prescriptions for free in all of its pharmacy locations; that Walgreens says it is the first drugstore chain to install safe medication disposal kiosks in its pharmacies and that last September, CVS said it would limit opioid prescriptions to seven-day supplies for new patients with acute conditions, in addition to the drug-disposal boxes at some locations.

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