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Schumer urges DEA to help get rid of unused prescriptions

Senator Charles Schumer, Moby Drugs Pharmacist Vincent Conte

Senator Charles Schumer, Moby Drugs Pharmacist Vincent Conte (behind) and Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, right, the day Schumer called on the DEA to change the rules and allow pharmacies to hold take-back programs and to provide funds to make buy-back programs more effective. (Aug. 15, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

The Drug Enforcement Administration needs to change its policies to allow people to more easily dispose of unused or unwanted prescription drugs, Sen. Charles Schumer said Thursday.

As burglaries of prescription medicine increase and abuse of prescriptions becomes "the greatest drug problem that Long Island and America faces," the DEA should change its rules to permit pharmacies to take back prescriptions and also to fund buyback programs, Schumer said at a news conference at Moby Drug in Farmingdale.

"These unused and potentially dangerous pills are just sitting there," said Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sent a letter to the DEA urging the agency to implement his suggestions.

In 2011, prescription opioids were linked to 92 overdose deaths in Nassau County and 177 in Suffolk County.

Beside the dangers of teens abusing prescription drugs they find at home, Suffolk police have seen an uptick in burglars going through medicine cabinets, said Detective Lt. Bob Donohue.

A pending New York State bill would allow pharmacies to take back medicine, but first the DEA must change its rules under the federal Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010.

The laws have too much "red tape," Schumer said.

The DEA hosts take-back events, and local police precincts collect the medicine, but it would be more convenient for people to dispose of medications at pharmacies, he said.

Schumer said he wants to make the regulations easier for registered pharmacies to take back prescription drugs.

"It should be as easy to turn them back in as it is to get them," said Jeffrey Reynolds of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Schumer also wants the DEA to help fund buybacks of prescription drugs.

The DEA collected more than 740,000 pounds of medication at more than 5,000 sites nationwide in April, Schumer said.

Allowing pharmacies to take back medicine would "absolutely" strengthen the effort to make communities and individuals safer, Donohue said.

Ralph Ekstrand, the mayor of Farmingdale Village and owner of Moby Drugs, said his pharmacy would participate in take-backs, and he thinks other pharmacies would, too.

"Of course," he said. "Who wouldn't want to take the drugs out of children's hands?"

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