DUNMORE, PA — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today brought the Office of Attorney General’s drug deactivation and disposal pouch initiative to 77 pharmacies in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. The pouches are being provided to pharmacies to reduce the diversion of prescription drugs in the 12 Pennsylvania counties hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.
Through the drug pouch initiative, Attorney General Shapiro is acting to make sure everyone receiving a Schedule II narcotic at a participating pharmacy will be offered a free disposal pouch, and that anyone who requests one can obtain a free pouch to safely dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs. Examples of Schedule II narcotics include Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl, among other drugs.
“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,” Attorney General Shapiro said at DePietro’s Pharmacy in Lackawanna County. “The communities hit hard by this epidemic are sick of it, and towns here in northeastern Pennsylvania have too often been ignored. We hear your pain and today, we’re bringing the fight into small towns and local pharmacies to help.”
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. 288 pharmacies in Pennsylvania will provide pouches to their customers and anyone who requests them.
“We’re working with pharmacists, health care providers and the public to deactivate the unused prescription drugs fueling this epidemic,” Shapiro said. “These deactivation pouches will help shut off that supply.”
“ Consumers need to be educated on the benefits of disposing unused medication,” said Thomas R. DePietro, PharmD and owner of DePietro’s Pharmacy. “Up until this point, they haven’t had a convenient and safe way to do so. Having a forward-thinking Attorney General not only identify this problem, but also provide a solution to this drug epidemic will most certainly save lives.”
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.
The 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.
The pouches are being distributed in counties hardest hit by the epidemic that also have poor access to take-back boxes, using data from the state Department of Health’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and the Department of Drug and Alcohol.
In addition to Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, the other 10 counties receiving pouches are Blair, Butler, Cambria, Erie, Fayette, Indiana, Lawrence, Lehigh, Mercer and Montour. Last year in Pennsylvania, 4,642 persons died of fatal overdoses – a 37 percent increase over 2015.
“We thank DePietro’s Pharmacy and every pharmacy and health care provider across Pennsylvania that has joined us,” Attorney General Shapiro said at today’s news conference in Dunmore, where he was joined by pharmacy owner DePietro, Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon and local officials. “By working together, we can get unused prescription drugs out of circulation and make sure they never wind up in the wrong hands.”
“As a partner with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, we are proud to see our state take yet another step in fighting opioid abuse and misuse,” said Dr. John Gallagher, Opioid Task Force chair of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “The Deterra Drug Pouch program will give hard-hit areas of our state an easy way to dispose of leftover Schedule II narcotics. We believe this program has the potential to save many lives.”
Other participating pharmacies in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties include American Infusion, Dalton Pharmacy, Leonard’s Pharmacy, Olexy Pharmacy, Tuzze Pharmacy, Crestwood Pharmacy, Nockley Family Pharmacy, Pierce Drug, Triangle Pharmacy, Valley Pharmacy, Weis, GIANT, CVS, Target, Rite-Aid and Walmart. As part of the initiative, the Office of Attorney General has made a website available to the public to learn where the participating pharmacies are located.