On July 29, 2021, President Biden signed the Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription (DUMP) Opioids Act into law. Beginning in 2022, it will give community residents access to medication disposal collection receptacles, including Sharps Compliance’s MedSafe kiosks, located at certain VA medical centers. Instead of waiting for semi-annual Drug Take Back Day events, this additional disposal option will help unused/unwanted opioids and other harmful medications from being misused or diverted into the environment.
The COVID Pandemic Affected Addiction Treatment and Overdose Rates in 2020
During the pandemic lockdowns, patients with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) faced many problems, including difficulty accessing treatment, isolation, and financial worries. In addition, the economic downturn forced some states to cut budgets for drug treatment and education programs.
The consequences were heartbreaking. Overdose deaths soared in 2020, with a nationwide increase of almost 30%, with some states experiencing increases of at least 40% over 2019.
“This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period, and the largest increase since at least 1999,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told NPR.
DUMP Opioids Act: “A smart way to save lives.“
Even before the pandemic, officials were concerned about rising OUD rates among veterans. Between 2010 and 2016, opioid overdose death rates among veterans increased by 65%. Two recent federal laws aim to make safe drug disposal easier for veterans and others.
- The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, became law in January 2021. One provision (Section 3009) directs “certain Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities to have physical location for the disposal of controlled substances medications.” It takes effect on January 1, 2022.
- The Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription Opioids Actamends Section 3009 of the previous bill. It expands the law to give community residents access to medication disposal kiosks at covered VA medical facilities. It also authorizes the VA Secretary to implement public information campaigns about available facilities and drop-off dates/times.
The DUMP Opioids Act’s Senate sponsor, John Kennedy of Louisiana, expressed hope that his bill will help families and communities keep opioid painkillers out of the wrong hands:
“Many opioid users rely on unused prescription medications that belong to family and friends, and Americans can help fight opioid addiction simply by clearing out their medicine cabinets. We can reduce access to addictive and dangerous substances by making it easy for every American to get rid of unused medicine at drop boxes that sit on VA medical centers. The DUMP Opioids Act is a smart way to save lives, and you don’t have to wait until Take Back Day.”
Federal agencies recommend take-back options as the preferred method for disposing of opioids and other medications to protect the public and the environment.
Sharps Compliance Continues Our Public/Private Partnership with the VA
Sharps Compliance began working with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010 when the VA launched a 5-year pilot program to provide disposal options for medical waste and unused dispensed medications generated outside healthcare settings:
The pilot, initiated in collaboration with the Houston-based Sharps Compliance Corp., allows each medical center in the VA Capitol Health Care Network (VISN 5) region, both inpatient and outpatient, to provide the Sharps Disposal By Mail System and the RxTakeAway solutions to patients.
After a successful trial period, the VA expanded the program nationwide in 2015 to supply Takeaway Medication Recovery System Envelopes to VA healthcare facilities as part of the VA’s Consolidated Mail Outpatient Program. Ultimate users can use the envelopes to dispose of both controlled and non-controlled medication waste right from the privacy of their own homes. All mailback systems are pre-addressed and affixed with prepaid postage.
The partnership is ongoing. The VA Center for Medication Safety prescription safety page includes information about how veterans can
- Receive postage-paid TakeAway Medication Recovery System Envelopes at no charge
- Dispose of medications in MedSafe medication disposal receptacles located at certain VA healthcare facilities
Passage of the DUMP Opioids Act will make it easier for communities with participating VA medical facilities to safely dispose of unused medications, including controlled substances, while also protecting their families, communities, and the environment.