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Congress passed a law that allows pharmacists to tell patients if they could save money by paying for prescriptions out of pocket instead of through their insurance copay.

New rule to ease safe disposal of unwanted prescription drugs

To dispose safely of unwanted, expired and unused prescription drugs, the Drug Enforcement Administration held its ninth Prescription Drug Take Back Day Saturday at more than 5,200 collection sites around the country. 

The final event was hosted on the cusp of a new prescription drug disposal rule that goes into effect in October, which will allow people to safely dispose of unneeded drugs at participating retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, narcotic treatment programs and prescription drug manufacturers.

“These regulations will create critical new avenues for addictive prescription drugs to leave the home and be disposed of in a safe, environmentally friendly way,” Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli said in a statement.

This rule, part of the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, expands the options to collect controlled substances to include mail-back programs and collection receptacles, in addition to take-back events. It was part of the Obama Administration’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Plan created to stem the country’s opioid epidemic.

A week following the DEA’s first take-back event, the Controlled Substances Act was signed into law, however it did not include legal provisions for people to dispose of unwanted controlled substances. Individuals could only dispose of these substances via a take-back event or by surrendering them to local law enforcement.

Since the first National Take Back Day in September 2010, the DEA has collected more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription drugs throughout the nation, according to a DEA statement.

Officials say expired, unwanted and unneeded prescription drugs in a home’s medicine cabinet present a public health and safety concern, especially because before drug take-back events began, people commonly flushed medications down the toilet or put them in the trash, contaminating the environment and water supply.

Keeping unused prescription drugs may also contribute to illegal drug use. 

In 2013, an estimated 2.8 million people 12 years and older used an illicit drug for the first time, according to the 2013 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. And about one in five of those respondents said they abused prescription drugs.

Prescription drugs were implicated in more than half of the 41,300 overdose deaths in 2011, and opioid pain relievers were involved in nearly 17,000 of these deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentioned in a statement from the White House.

In 2013, the CDC answered questions from NewsHour viewers about the issue of prescription drug abuse.