On September 23, 2014, DEA announced that its ninth Take Back Day would be the agency’s last.  The announcement was made shortly after DEA published the Final Rule implementing the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010.  The regulations promulgated by DEA allow “authorized collectors” the opportunity to receive and securely dispose of prescription medications.

The moratorium on conducting Take Back Days was short lived.  DEA’s new Acting Administrator, Chuck Rosenberg, recently announced that DEA would revive the Take Back Program.  Administrator Rosenberg issued a challenge to the American people: “We need you to clean out your medicine cabinet; we need you to give us the stuff in your medicine cabinet that can hurt you or your loved ones.”

Take Back Programs have proven to be an effective tool in reducing the supply of unused and unwanted medication. During the four years that DEA conducted nine Take Back Days, the agency collected approximately 2,411 tons of unused prescription medication.  That is an astounding figure which leads to an obvious question.  Are doctors prescribing more medication than patients need?  While DEA often states that pharmacies are “the last line of defense,” prescriptions originate with doctors.  The amount of unused medication collected from the general public should cause the medical community to do a thorough self-assessment.  Better education and self-enforcement of the medical community when it comes to prescribing controlled substances is a crucial part in protecting the public health and safety from prescription drug abuse.