In the past, consumers were told to flush unwanted drugs. Low levels of drugs have been found in NY waters, despite advances in research and technology.
- Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers and streams
- Fish and other aquatic wildlife experience behavioral and physical changes through continuous exposure to low levels of medications
- Drug-resistant bacteria can develop
- Wastewater treatment plants may not filter all medications
Dispose of Drugs Safely
- Households should dispose of any unwanted pharmaceuticals through a take-back program.
- The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorizes retail pharmacies (drug stores) to hold take-back collections. Learn more about the DEC Pilot Pharmaceutical Take-back Program.
- The NYS Department of Health (DOH) provides safe disposal guidelines for Long-Term Care and Class 3A facilities.
Requirements for Pharmacies and Other Providers
Pharmacies and other retailers that sell drugs, including veterinary offices, must conspicuously display DEC's "Proper Disposal of Pharmaceuticals" notice as required under NYS Law.
Guidance on Posting the Notice
How should it be displayed?
The notice should be printed in color, at least 8.5 x 11 inches, and be clearly displayed. Stores are encouraged to frame, laminate, or otherwise ensure that the notice is durable.
Where should it be posted?
In a pharmacy setting, the notice should be visible to a consumer at the pick-up counter. Options include posting on a wall or on the counter itself. If a pharmacy is within a store, but the pharmacy closes for some portion of the store hours, the notice should be visible in the pharmacy department during hours when the pharmacy is closed.
In other retail settings, the notice should be posted at one of the following locations:
- At the checkout counter
- On/above/visible from aisles where drugs are displayed
- As a shelf-label or other in-aisle placement with the display of drugs
2018 Drug Take Back Act
On July 10, 2018, Former Governor Cuomo signed the Drug Take Back Act (PBH § 290-294) (leaves DEC website). This groundbreaking legislation requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to fund statewide pharmaceutical drug take-back program(s). This legislation advances a "product stewardship" (PDF) approach to the challenge of disposing of unwanted medications. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will be responsible for all costs of the initiative including public education and awareness, as well as the collection, transport, and proper disposal of unwanted drugs.
The Act further requires chain pharmacies with ten or more locations and mail-order pharmacies to provide consumers with on-site collection using kiosks, prepaid mail back envelopes, or other federally approved methods to encourage, safe, convenient and environmentally responsible disposal of unwanted medications. The Act allows other pharmacies to voluntarily serve as authorized collectors and participate in the Drug Take-Back program, with costs covered by the manufacturers.
By July 5, 2019, manufacturers must submit to DOH a proposal on how they intend to implement the Drug Take Back Act requirements. By September 3, 2019 (i.e., 60 days after submission), DOH must approve or deny the proposed plan in consultation with DEC. If DOH and DEC reject the proposal, manufacturers have until October 3, 2019 to submit a revised plan for review and approval.