OLEAN, NY — Vic Vena Pharmacy at 1322 W. State St. will participate in the state’s $2 million Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program, which will officially begin accepting waste medications in April.

According to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, participants include 80 retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state.

“A lot of our folks have medications they want to dispose of," pharmacy owner Vic Vena said. "To this point, we really haven’t had a good disposal system. But New York State has decided to grab that bull by the horns and to help patients have locations they can take their medicines and can be safely disposed.”

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Under this program, the DEC will purchase medication collection boxes and pay for the disposal of waste pharmaceuticals collected by the participating facilities for two years. By increasing the opportunities for communities to dispose of unwanted medications, it will help improve water quality, protect public health by removing medications from home medicine cabinets and reduce potential adverse impacts to fish and aquatic organisms.

“Eventually we would have to get into it anyways," Vena said. "It’s almost like a scholarship now where they are supplying the units and helping to pay for the disposal of the drugs for a number of years. It was a door-opening for us to get into it, and we decided that it was a great idea.”

Funded through the Environmental Protection Fund, resources will cover the full costs of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, along with the cost of pick up, transport and destruction of the collected waste pharmaceuticals.

Through the use of technological advances in analytical techniques, low levels of drugs can be detected in surface water and ground water. Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers and streams, and can negatively affect the waterways. Medications adversely affect aquatic wildlife as well as increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

“When drugs are discarded, they eventually get into our septic systems, sewer systems, and eventually leach into our rivers, streams and soil," Vena explained. "They affect not just human beings, but creatures big and small, aquatic or even dairy animals.” 

Also, unwanted pharmaceuticals sometimes end up getting into the wrong hands. The Center for Disease Control reports that one U.S. citizen dies every 16 minutes from a drug overdose. This public health threat has been declared an epidemic.

“Is it our responsibility? Yes, to some degree it’s everyone’s responsibility,” Vena said. “Since we are the dispensers of medication, we want to make sure that medications are handled safely, whether they are being used by humans or disposed of by humans.”

The pilot program is open and is accepting applications. Retail pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities are encouraged to enroll online at the Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program web page on DEC's website or at on.ny.gov/rxpilot.

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