Big pharma funds nationwide program
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – The City Council heard local Rotary Club representatives Stephen Ahles and Christine Steves speak about a new drug disposal program funded nationwide by pharmaceutical companies during its Feb. 13 study session.
The money, which is part of a broader legal settlement with big pharma, provides funding for the safe disposal of prescription drugs when local governmental entities create an ordinance requiring a process for take-back of unwanted and unused medications.
Improperly disposed of drugs can enter the city’s trash and wastewater treatment systems, which create a significant risk to human health and the environment.
Prescriptions improperly disposed of also can contaminate landfills, groundwater, rivers and lakes.
Additionally, unneeded medications left in homes often fall into the wrong hands, whether ingested or abused by children, adults or the elderly, increasing the risks of poisoning, addiction and overdose death.
Ahles said creating a local ordinance to create a safe disposal system provides a legal mechanism for pharmaceutical companies to fund the system.
He said police departments and local pharmacies often serve as disposal locations by hosting kiosks.
Ahles showed a plastic bag and held up a liquid which is used to neutralize any dangerous drug substances, particularly opioids.
He said residents would receive such kits for free, with instructions, and that they could also be supplied when prescriptions are initially filled.
Ahles said Rotary officials are holding meetings with government officials from Southgate, Taylor, Grosse Ile Township, Trenton, Canton Township and Detroit to share more information.
He emphasized that the program would be at no cost to the sponsoring cities.
Police Chief John Allen said that currently, the Police Department sponsors drug take-back programs twice a year, which he said is not often enough.
He said that currently, the department’s protocol is to take the unwanted drugs to a site in Grand Rapids, where they are incinerated.
Ahles said Rotary’s involvement in the drug disposal program came about through the group’s commitment to clean water, which includes the opioid contamination that occurs when people flush away unwanted prescription pain medication.