Clean Water Current

NACWA Asks FDA to Consider Environmental Impacts of Opioid Disposal Methods

Sep 7, 2023

In August 28 comments, NACWA asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness and environmental impacts of at-home disposal methods for unused opioid medications before encouraging their widespread use.  The FDA published a request for information to assist it in assessing whether at-home disposal methods can help mitigate the risk of abuse and overdose of prescription opioids. 

NACWA explained that drug take-back programs have been supported by its member utilities, which ask their communities not to flush unused prescriptions or dispose of them in the trash.  NACWA has also supported providing mail-back envelopes with prescriptions, since they have been used effectively in the past and result in destruction of the pharmaceuticals through incineration.   

NACWA does not support any disposal methods that result in medications being taken to landfills, since pharmaceuticals have been found in landfill leachate that is sent to wastewater treatment plants.  The at-home disposal methods result in the medications being landfilled.  NACWA asked that FDA ensure that the pharmaceutical compounds are destroyed when these methods are used, otherwise they cannot prevent illicit use or environmental harm.    

NACWA will follow FDA’s progress in evaluating appropriate disposal methods for unused pharmaceuticals.  Please contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, with any questions.   

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