Clallam health board backs drug return program

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Board of Health will develop an ordinance to require pharmaceutical companies to administer and pay for a secure medicine return program.

Health board members voted unanimously Tuesday to pursue a medicine return policy for Clallam County.

Under the local law, which has been adopted by four counties in Washington and 14 nationwide, drug manufacturers are required to install secure kiosks in local pharmacies, health care centers and other places where unwanted medication can be disposed of.

The unwanted prescription pills and over-the-counter medication are destroyed at an incinerator in a system funded by a pharmaceutical conglomerate and backed by the courts.

Proponents say the secure medicine return is a tool in the battle against the opioid epidemic.

In addition to keeping drugs out of the wrong hands, the program helps the environment by keeping pills out of landfills and sewers, proponents say.

“If we could find ways to remove or minimize the flow of medications into the waste stream, that would be a positive thing,” Clallam County Commissioner and Board of Heath member Mark Ozias said in Tuesday’s meeting.

Dr. Christopher Frank, Clallam County health officer, said he would meet with Kitsap County public health officials and secure medicine return consultant Dr. Margaret Shield to gauge startup costs and develop a plan to implement the program.

Clallam County will recover its startup costs from drug manufacturers, Frank said.

The Board of Health is expected to discuss the fee schedule at its Aug. 15 meeting.

The Clallam County ordinance will be based largely on Kitsap County’s secure medicine return law.

King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties have passed secure medicine return regulations, as have at least 10 counties in California and New York, Shield said in a June 20 Clallam County Board of Health meeting.

The Clallam County ordinance will be vetted by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office before it is presented in a public hearing.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke has said he supports the secure medicine return programs for environmental reasons and because a certain percentage of unused medication is stolen and abused.

Opioid addiction is considered an epidemic on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Jefferson County Board of Health discussed secure medicine return when the King County program was in its infancy.

Since public health efforts are coordinated in Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties, the Jefferson County health board may be included to consider adopting its own ordinance, Locke said in a recent interview.

Port Angeles Police Chief Brian Smith has said the secure medicine return program would augment ongoing drug take-back efforts of local law enforcement agencies.

Law enforcement agencies were the only places where unwanted medication could be returned before the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration relaxed its rules, Shield said.

More than 80 secure drop boxes have been installed in King County since the secure medicine return program was launched there in 2016.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.