Washington State House Democrats


Peterson legislation provides next step to fight opioid epidemic

OLYMPIA – As Washington state continues to battle the opioid crisis, Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, is once again advocating for legislation to require drug manufacturers that sell drugs in Washington state to implement safe drug disposal programs. House Bill 1047, also known as the Secure Drug Take Back Act, passed the House last week on a strong, bipartisan vote of 86-12.

“I applaud the House for taking action to create a statewide drug take-back program. It is a powerful tool in fighting the opioid epidemic and prescription drug abuse,” said Sherriff Trenary of Snohomish County after the passage of the bill.

Overdose deaths have surpassed car accidents as the most common cause of accidental death in Washington state. According to the Washington State Department of Health, of the almost 700 opioid overdose deaths in 2016, over 400 were attributed to prescription opioids. A majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the medicine cabinet.

Prescription drugs contribute to overdose and abuse, however, they are also factors in accidental poisonings and suicides. In Washington, over 150 suicides were attributed to medications in 2015. Prescription drug accumulation in homes can also increase the possibility of accidental poisonings.

“Too many families have been torn apart by suicide and addiction,” said Peterson. “Washington families need a safe, responsible way to dispose of unused medication so we can protect our families and communities.”

In order to reduce the risk of drug abuse, overdoses, poisonings and suicides, the Secure Drug Take Back Act will require drug manufacturers to implement systems for the safe, secure collection of unused, expired, and leftover medications. The cost to pharmaceutical companies is estimated to be 0.1 percent of the $5.7 billion of annual sales made in Washington markets.

The take back programs must operate on a year-round basis, and offer reasonably convenient drop off sites in communities across the state. Each program must also develop a system of promotion, education, and public outreach about the safe storage and collection of pharmaceuticals. The bill also allows for any pharmacy, hospital, or police agency to volunteer to host a secure drug drop box by ensuring their inclusion in the collection system provided by drug manufacturers.

“Nurses know that patients and families need a safe and convenient way to dispose of unwanted and unused medications in communities across our state,” said Jan Bussert, President of the Washington State Nurses Association. “We are proud to support this first-in-the-nation comprehensive legislation requiring the pharmaceutical industry to provide this service.”

House Bill 1047 now goes to the Senate for consideration.