Long-term care facilities could collect residents' unused prescription drugs under new federal regulation to combat abuse

Share this content:

Long-term care facilities will have a role to play in a new prescription drug take-back effort aimed at curbing addiction and abuse, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday.

The new Drug Enforcement Administration regulation will allow people to drop off unused prescription drugs at pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and other “authorized collectors.” The regulation also will allow long-term care facilities to “assist in the disposal of prescription controlled substances” of current and former residents, Holder explained in a video message and accompanying news release.

The regulation is meant to build on smaller-scale take-back programs. Authorities collected 390 tons of prescription drugs at about 6,100 sites during a take-back event in April, Holder said. Collected medications are destroyed to prevent them from falling into the hands of abusers or contaminating the environment, including water supplies.

More than 41,000 people died of unintentional drug overdoses in 2011, and more than half those cases involved prescription medications, according to the Department of Justice. Opioid abuse has been particularly deadly and prevalent, causing officials to seek stricter regulations on their use. Long-term care providers and other healthcare providers have protested, saying that unduly limiting access could make pain management unreasonably hard.