Secure Drug Take-Back Act Passes in Washington House

Bill would be first of its kind in the nation

Last week Friday, the Washington House approved new secure medicine return legislation with an 86-12 bipartisan vote. The law (ESHB 1047) requires drug manufacturers to finance and coordinate a convenient and secure take-back system for unused medicines. When the program is launched, residents will be able to bring leftover prescription and over-the-counter drugs into their local pharmacies, hospitals and other places for safe disposal. In areas without collection sites, prepaid return mailers will be provided.

If this bill passes into law, it will be the first comprehensive drug take-back program in the nation that is provided by the pharmaceutical industry.  The measure now goes to the State Senate.

Safe medicine return is a critical part of an ‘all of the above approach’ to fighting the opioid epidemic.  Overdoses are the most common cause of accidental deaths, outnumbering even car accidents.  In 2016, there were 694 overdose deaths in Washington – 435 of which were attributed to prescription opioids.  In 2015, over 200 suicides were attributed to prescription drugs and there were 960 accidental poisonings from prescription drugs.

Additional past and current legislation in both chambers offer a comprehensive strategy to addressing opiates, tackling prescribing practices, data collection and analysis, prevention, and treatment. Drug Take Back is a critical next step in prevention and in the overall fight against the opiate epidemic.  A great part of House Bill 1047 is that cities throughout the state will have support to provide at least one collection location.  While the program is implemented locally, drug manufacturers would pay and operate the program, working with pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, law enforcement, and other authorized collectors to secure drop-boxes.

The Secure Drug Take-Back Act is supported by a wide array of organizations, ranging from medical and suicide prevention groups to pharmacies and health centers to county and city associations.

Similar local laws are already in place in King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Pierce, Clallam and Whatcom Counties requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide a drug take-back program. The statewide law is built from these local programs and will expand access to the program to all residents of Washington.  As Washingtonians, we fill about 70 million prescriptions annually and approximately one-third of these will go unused.  Unused and leftover medicines accumulate in homes and increase the risk of drug abuse, overdoses, and accidental poisonings.  As much as 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs obtain them from family and friends – with the medicine cabinet as a key source.

Two programs have already gone into effect under these local laws in Snohomish and King counties. The programs in these counties are run by Med-Project, an organization which is financed by more than 400 participating drug manufacturers. In both counties, the MED-Project program has greatly expanded options for residents, providing convenient and secure drop boxes at drug stores, grocery stores with pharmacies, and medical clinics.

To find out more about the Secure Drug Take-back Act:

To learn more about existing programs in King and Snohomish counties: MED-Project program

Or view this short video about the MED-Project program:


Jaime Bodden

Jaime Bodden is the Managing Director for WSALPHO. Previously, Jaime managed and oversaw the operations of a small health department as Health Officer/Director. Additionally, Jaime has experience in community engagement, health promotion, global health, and health policy. She holds Master degrees in Social Work and Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.