By the end of July, Hawai‘i will have new “secured collection receptacles” for people to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.
There will be receptacles installed at 17 Longs Drugs pharmacies around the state: nine on Oahu, three on Hawai‘i Island, three on Maui and two on Kauai. The locations of the receptacles were chosen based on where they are needed.
The goal of the receptacles is to reduce drug abuse by providing proper disposal methods for prescription drugs. “People just said, ‘Hey, we need a no-nonsense way where we could just go to the pharmacies — CVS (owner of Longs Drugs), Walgreens, what have you — and submit back our prescription medications, because we don’t want it in the house, we don’t want our kids or someone else to accidentally take this,’” said state Rep. John Mizuno, chairman of the House Committee on Health.
Hawai‘i’s pharmacies can start installing the receptacles thanks to a new bill signed Tuesday by Gov. David Ige. House Bill 1272, which Mizuno introduced, allows pharmacies to install the receptacles and participate in mail-back programs. The bill also prohibits pharmacies from redistributing returned prescriptions or accepting them for cash or credit.
The main purpose of the receptacles and the mail-back program is to provide people a proper and secure way to dispose of medication that they no longer want or is expired. “When patients leave unused medications, especially narcotics like opioids, in a medicine cabinet, or if those medications are disposed of improperly, there’s a risk of those medications being misused,” said Joe Goode, senior director of corporate communications at CVS Health.
The U.S. is currently facing an opioid crisis, as 46,000 people in the country died in 2016 because of opioid overdoses, and millions more have abused opioids, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Hawai‘i Opioid Initiative, there are already 11 of those receptacles — six of which are on Maui — in the state, although they are at police stations. HB 1272 expands them to pharmacies. Hawai‘i appears to be doing relatively well regarding opioid- related deaths and written opioid prescriptions, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The institute found that in 2017 there were 53 deaths, or 3.4 deaths per 100,000 people, that involved opioids. Doctors wrote 37 opioid prescriptions per 100 people in Hawai‘i, lower than the nearly 60 prescriptions written per 100 people in the U.S. as a whole.
The state Department of Health has shown that the number of opioid prescriptions is falling in Hawai‘i; however, it stated that prescription drug poisoning is still a problem. “We need to do all we can to reduce anymore prescription drug overdoses, and so this is another tool in our kit to alleviate that concern,” Mizuno said.