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Drug Takeback Proposal Aims To Keep Unwanted Medicine Off Illinois Streets, And Out Of The Water

via Flickr CC BY 2.0

State lawmakers and public health advocates want to make it more convenient for Illinoisans to get rid of their unwanted medicine.Sam Dunklau reports.

If you look in the places where you store medicine at home, state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D, Glenview) is willing to bet you’ve got expired pills and liquids. She recently took a look in her own medicine chest and found a bunch.

“I know that these drugs should not be flushed down the toilet, yet I don’t recall receiving any safe disposal instructions," she recounted during an event in Chicago. "We’re going to change that in Illinois.”

Gong-Gershowitz is sponsoring a measure to expand the number of safe drug disposal sites, and make pharmaceutical companies pay for it. The aim is to dispose of more drugs in rural downstate communities, places where drug take back programs may have been too expensive to set up in the past.

Dr. John Roberts of the Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization, or HERO, is among those backing the plan. He said hard-to-reach areas are where the programs are needed most.

“Lurking in almost every household in this state is the means to lose a life through a drug overdose or begin an addiction, and it’s time we do something about it on a wide scale across our entire state," Roberts said.

Supporters argue drug addiction isn't the only problem unwanted medicines can cause. Colleen Smith of the Illinois Environmental Council explained when those medicines are flushed down toilets and sinks, they flow into vital water sources.

“Without safe, convenient and funded collection opportunities, these drugs will continue to contaminate our rivers, our streams and our drinking water," Smith said.

The proposal would require pharmaceutical drug makers to shoulder the cost of new drug disposal sites and public education efforts. It would also have drug makers pay a $5,000 annual registration fee to the state.

Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said the drug buyback program in his county alone cost $30,000 per year to maintain, not to mention what it cost to have law enforcement keep tabs on disposal sites.

“This will shift that cost to the drug manufacturer and save taxpayer money in the long run,” he told the Chicago group.

If the idea is approved, drug makers would have to draw up plans for take back programs by next summer.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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