Pharmacy Take-Back Bill Proposed to Combat Opiate Abuse in Minnesota

May 03, 2017 12:24 PM

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is working with policymakers and pharmacies to battle against opiate abuse in Minnesota.

More than 100 Hennepin County residents died from opiate abuse in 2015, according to officials. Opiates are a class of drug that includes heroin and prescription drugs.


To help combat this issue, a new bill proposes allowing pharmacies to voluntarily take back, and destroy, unwanted prescription medicines. The sheriff’s office, state leaders and members of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy are banding together to back the bill.

“Opiate abuse continues to kill too many people in our community, and the reality is, law enforcement cannot arrest its way of this deadly problem,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said. “That’s why I’ve put my full support behind (this) bill that would allow pharmacies in Minnesota to voluntarily take back and destroy unwanted prescription medicines. Preventing pill abuse can save lives.”

Ariel Eaton-Willson said she abused heroin nine years ago, at the age of 23. She's the daughter of State Senator Chris Eaton and Brooklyn Center Mayor Tim Willson. 

"Prescription painkillers are used as gateway drugs that often lead to heroin," Eaton-Willson said.

That fact compelled lawmakers, law enforcement officers and representatives of Walgreens Pharmacy to do something about the painkiller epidemic in the state.

State Rep. Bob Barrett, of Chisago County, proposed changing state law to allow neighborhood drug stores to accept unused, unwanted or expired medicine at no cost. Currently, Minnesota pharmacies can't take the drugs, because it's illegal.

"The goal is to keep these life-saving medicines from becoming a life-ending drug sold on the streets," Barrett said.

The announcement about the proposed bill was made at a government building in Brooklyn Center, in which is located a drug take-back box, similar to the kind that you would see in pharmacies.

Although it's a public place, some say it is not always a convenient stop.

"People are taking a trip, especially to the library, that's way out of the way and are less likely than just going to the drugstore where they're going to go anyway," resident Tim Johnson said.

Currently, 40 states have changed their laws to allow voluntary private pharmacy take-back programs.

The proposed change to state law comes on the heels of the passage at the federal level of the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act.  It was implemented by the DEA in 2014. Sen. Amy Klobuchar sponsored the 2010 bill which paved the way for expanding drug take back programs – like the Walgreens initiative– by allowing consumers to give controlled substances to specially designated individuals for disposal, such as law enforcement officials or pharmacists, in accordance with DEA regulations.  Sunday's discussion was about how Minnesota could increase its participation in drug take-back programs, like those that Senator Klobuchar’s 2010 legislation has promoted, before Walgreens moves forward with its take back initiative.  

Senator Klobuchar's new legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) would build on the 2010 bill by further expanding disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.


Rebecca Omastiak & Beth McDonough

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