NEW YORK – Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today called on New Yorkers to help fight the opioid crisis during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day by heading to ClearYourCabinet.com, a statewide initiative and website launched this past April dedicated to helping New Yorkers safely dispose of prescription drugs. As part of Attorney General Underwood’s multi-levered approach to tackling the opioid epidemic, the initiative is aimed at helping New Yorkers take one of the simplest steps to prevent addiction by safely disposing of their unused drugs at drop-off sites around New York. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five new heroin users start out by misusing prescription drugs; and according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.

“We can all play a role in curbing the opioid crisis in New York and across the country,” said Attorney General Underwood. “I’m asking every New Yorker to take a look at their medicine cabinet, identify any unused prescription drugs, and then visit clearyourcabinet.com to find out where you can safely dispose of them this Saturday.”

Building on national efforts to encourage Americans to bring unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs to designated sites for safe disposal, Clear Your Cabinet gives New Yorkers new tools to find their nearest drop-off locations and request email or text message reminders to go and dispose of their unused medication. The Attorney General’s office recommends that New Yorkers call to confirm the participation of all drop-off sites. The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is this Saturday, October 27th, 2018 from 10AM to 2PM.

The Attorney General’s Clear Your Cabinet initiative was launched through a collaboration with volunteers from some of New York’s leading tech startups after a hackathon focused on the opioid crisis and hosted by the Attorney General’s office in March 2018. In particular, the Attorney General would like to thank the organizers of Progressive Hacknight and Civic Hall for their assistance in this project.

In coordination with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, law enforcement agencies, national and community pharmacies, non-profits, and other institutions across New York will be hosting safe drop-off sites for New Yorkers to bring unused medication this Saturday, October 27th from 10AM to 2PM. Many of these sites will also collect unused medication year-round. To find a location near you, go to ClearYourCabinet.com. The Attorney General’s office recommends that New Yorkers call to confirm the participation of all drop-off sites.

Disposal of unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medication at these locations is no questions asked and free. New Yorkers cannot bring illegal drugs or needles and sharps (click here for more information on the disposal of needles/sharps). As a last resort, for communities without a safe disposal site nearby, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends mixing medications (do not crush tablets or capsules) with water and then adding salt, ashes, dirt, cat litter, coffee grounds, or another undesirable substance, to avoid accidental or intentional misuse of drugs. To prevent unintentional consumption by scavenging humans, pets, or wildlife, do not conceal discarded drugs in food. Their full guidance is available here.

During the last National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in April 2018, 474.5 tons of unused medication were collected across the country. Nearly 40,000 pounds of unused medication were collected in New York State alone; that’s heavier than the combined weight of six heavy-duty pick up trucks. By comparison, the largest criminal drug bust in the history of the New York Attorney General’s office took approximately 70 pounds of heroin and fentanyl off the street.

In addition to advancing efforts for the disposal of unused opioids, Attorney General Underwood’s multi-levered strategy to tackle New York’s evolving opioid epidemic includes:

  • Bringing New York’s most effective law enforcement resources together in the ongoing SURGE Initiative to root out violent drug trafficking in rural communities and upstate New York. Since launching in 2017, SURGE has taken down 10 major drug trafficking rings across New York – resulting in 315 traffickers taken off the streets.
  • Filing suit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, for widespread fraud and deception in the marketing of its opioid products.
  • Obtaining settlements with major national and global health insurers including Cigna and Anthem, which insure over 4 million New Yorkers, to remove barriers to life-saving treatment for opioid use disorder. The agreements put an end to the insurers’ policy of requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment (“MAT”), which can lead to significant delays for patients seeking relief from addiction.
  • Creating the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (“I-STOP”), a series of enhancements to New York’s prescription drug monitoring program that provide doctors with patient’s up-to-date controlled substance prescription history and establishing a safe disposal program providing a place for New Yorkers to get rid of expired and unneeded drugs—thus reducing the likelihood of stolen and forged prescriptions being used to obtain controlled substances from pharmacies. I-STOP reduced “doctor shopping,” a practice in which an individual attempts to obtain the same or similar prescriptions from multiple physicians, by 90% since 2014.
  • Launching the Community Overdose Prevention (“COP”) program, a life-saving initiative that enabled state and local law enforcement officers in the state of New York to carry naloxone, the extremely effective heroin antidote that can immediately reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Since the program’s implementation in April 2014, more than 100 overdoses were reversed using kits provided by the COP program, which distributed over 27,000 kits across the state.
  • Obtaining an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, to cut and cap the price of naloxone for all agencies in New York State, reducing the price of naloxone by nearly 20 percent.
  • Enforcing Mental Health Parity Laws to reach agreements with six health insurance companies, requiring them to implement sweeping reforms in their administration of behavioral health benefits, in particular relating to medical management practices, coverage of residential treatment for substance abuse, and co-pays for outpatient treatment, and to submit regular compliance reports. The agreements ultimately provided millions of dollars in penalties and over $2 million in restitution for members whose claims were improperly denied.
  • Successfully prosecuting more than ten licensed prescribers including operators of “pill mills” and other unlawful practices for crimes related to improper opioid prescriptions.
  • Urging health insurance companies to review their coverage and payment policies that contribute to the opioid epidemic, as well as sending letters to the country’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers requesting documents, data, and other information regarding how they are addressing the opioid crisis.

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