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Health, Science & Tech

Free Drug Disposal Pouches To Be Distributed At Rural Pennsylvania Pharmacies

Toby Talbot
Tablets of the opioid painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vermont.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced plans to supply nearly 300,000 drug deactivation and disposal pouches to a dozen counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Everyone receiving a schedule II narcotic such as Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl at a participating pharmacy will be offered a free Deterra disposal pouch, beginning August 1, Shapiro said.

“To be honest with you, at first I couldn’t believe it worked," Shapiro said of the drug disposal technology.

The pouches, which contains activated carbon that binds to and neutralizes the active ingredients in drugs, are manufactured by Minnesota-based Verde Technologies. Vice president of sales John Mulcahy said people can fill them with pills, patches or liquids.

Credit Verde Technologies
Deterra drug deactivation pouches will be available at nearly 300 pharmacies in 12 rural Pennsylvania counties.

“After that, you would just add warm tap water, allow about 20 seconds for oxygen to be released out of the pouch. Zip that pouch up, shake it up a little bit and it can head right into the normal trash,” Mulcahy said.

Nearly 300 pharmacies in Blair, Butler, Cambria, Erie, Fayette, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer and Montour counties plan to participate in the program. Shapiro said it’s an alternative to prescription drug drop boxes, which can be hard to access in rural communities.

Mulcahy said some people flush or throw away excess prescription drugs, which can contaminate water supplies.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 80 percent of heroin users reported first misusing prescription drugs.

“Rural Pennsylvania has been hit particularly hard by the heroin and opioid epidemic, and we’ve got to make sure that they have not just the law enforcement tools that we provide each and every day, but also the tools to help themselves in this process," Shapiro said.

Nearly 4,000 people died from opioid-related overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2016, a 44 percent increase over 2015, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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