BALA-CYNWYD — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today brought the Office of Attorney General’s drug deactivation and disposal pouch initiative to hospice providers in Montgomery County, part of a broader effort to provide 50,000 pouches to 97 homecare and hospice organizations in 17 counties to reduce the diversion of prescription drugs fueling the opioid epidemic.
Homecare hospice workers and family members of loved ones who passed away in hospice often find it difficult to safely dispose of unwanted, unused prescription drugs, and have asked for a responsible solution since it technically against the law to possess a prescription bottle in someone else’s name.
Through the drug pouch initiative, Attorney General Shapiro is acting to make sure the families of hospice patients have a safe way to dispose of Schedule II narcotics following the death of their loved one. Examples of Schedule II narcotics include Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl, among other drugs. The pouches will be provided to families upon a person’s admission to hospice care, which is mostly provided in the home. In Pennsylvania, an estimated 66,000 people receive hospice care each year.
“Our partnership with the homecare and hospice community will make it safer and easier for families to dispose of unused prescription drugs following the death of their loved one,” Attorney General Shapiro said at Penn Home Care and Hospice Services in Bala-Cynwyd. “Eighty percent of heroin addicts start with the abuse of prescription drugs, and the vast majority of those who misuse these drugs got them from friends, relatives or a medicine cabinet.”
The drug pouches can deactivate up to 45 unwanted pills when warm water is added and the pouches are sealed. The pouches can then be safely disposed of in the trash. In addition to the hospice organizations receiving pouches, 288 pharmacies in 12 counties in Pennsylvania are also receiving free pouches to provide to their customers and anyone who requests them.
“We’re working with homecare and hospice providers, with pharmacies and the public to deactivate the unused prescription drugs fueling this epidemic,” Shapiro said. “These deactivation pouches will help shut off that supply.”
In the first six months of 2017, the Office of Attorney General and the Pennsylvania National Guard destroyed 22.68 tons of unused prescription drugs collected from communities across Pennsylvania. By comparison, 26 tons of unused drugs were destroyed in all of 2016.
250,000 Deterra Drug Deactivation pouches were purchased by the Office of Attorney General through its Community Drug Abuse Prevention Program, which is funded by fines assessed under Act 198 for driving under the influence and drug offenses. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals donated another 50,000 pouches. Pharmacies are receiving 250,000 pouches, and 50,000 are going to hospices.
The pouches are being distributed to hospice providers in some of the counties hardest hit by the epidemic, using data from the state Department of Health’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and the Department of Drug and Alcohol.
In addition to Montgomery County, the other counties receiving pouches for hospices are Allegheny, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Montour and Philadelphia. Last year in Pennsylvania, 4,642 persons died of fatal overdoses – a 37 percent increase over 2015.
“We thank Penn Home Care and Hospice Services, the PA Homecare Association and every hospice provider in Pennsylvania that has joined us,” Attorney General Shapiro said at today’s news conference, where he was joined by a family member of a former patient, Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele, Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery Commissioners, County Commissioner Ken Lawrence Jr. and Rep. Tim Briggs. “By working together, we can get unused prescription drugs out of circulation and make sure they never wind up in the wrong hands,” Shapiro said.
“When a family loses a loved one, there are so many arrangements to be made and grief to work through – the last thing on the family’s mind should be figuring out what to do with leftover narcotics,” said Vicki Hoak, PA Homecare Association CEO. “PHA is thankful for the generosity of the Attorney General and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in providing this convenient tool to hospices and families across Pennsylvania. Hospices will now be able to give them to 50,000 families so they can properly dispose of any unused narcotics and concentrate on what really matters: each other.”
Other participating hospices in Montgomery County include Doylestown Hospital, Vitas Health Care, Liberty Hospice, ACTS Home Health & Senior Services, Grand View Hospital, Heartland Home Health Care, Ascend Hospice, VNA of Pottstown & Vicinity, Crossroads Hospice, Sarahcare Hospice, Life Choice Hospice, Seasons Hospice & Palliative and New Life Home Care, Hospice & Palliative Care.