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Legislation to Help Prevent Unsafe Access to Prescription Medications Now Law

In an effort to protect the environment and reduce unsafe access to prescription drugs, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, John Armato and Robert Karabinchak have sponsored legislation to require pharmacies to educate customers and offer methods for them to properly dispose of their medicine. The bill was signed into law Tuesday.

The law (formerly bill A-5667) will require pharmaceutical sites that dispense prescription medicines to provide patients with information about the potential risks of improperly discarding unused pills and syringes. One of those risks includes making it easier for someone to steal the medication from the trash for their own personal use or resale.

The law is named “Charlie’s Law” in Charlie Van Tassel’s memory – a young athlete who struggled with addiction for many years before tragically succumbing at the age of 33.

“Many don’t realize the danger their medicine can pose to others if they fail to safely dispose of it,” said Assemblyman Mukherji (D-Hudson). “If someone else accesses a prescription drug without a legitimate need, the medication could be harmful to health or worsen an ongoing addiction. The intent of this law is to help reduce the chances of promising young New Jerseyans like Charlie Van Tassel, Benjamin Tofik Farah or Nick Rohdes developing a substance abuse disorder or accessing dangerous drugs.”

Sometimes the misuse of a medication is accidental, when children find expired or unused pills that were never removed from a residence. Each year, thousands of American children accidentally ingest opioid drugs.

“As a parent, we would never knowingly put our children in harm’s way. Leaving old medicine around the house can put them at risk,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s important for patients to be educated on how to safely handle their unused prescriptions to prevent tragic accidents from taking place.”

Even wildlife can be damaged as a result of chemicals leaking into the ecosystem after medications are thrown in the garbage or flushed down the toilet. As such, the law further stipulates that pharmacies must make at least one safe method of disposal available to their customers.

“If consumers know the dangers of improperly discarded medicine but are not offered an alternative method to safely dispose of it, the problem will remain,” said Assemblyman Armato (D-Atlantic). “Both education and resources must be provided to patients in order for us to combat this standard yet detrimental practice.”

Some of the methods pharmacies can offer include over-the-counter at-home solutions that alter the chemical or physical makeup of the drug, and secured medication collection kiosks where customers could drop off their unused prescriptions.

“At a time when our country is going through a severe opioid crisis, it’s important to prevent drug abuse in whatever way we can,” said Assemblyman Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “This law will help keep our communities healthy and safe by raising awareness of this issue and providing impactful measures to address it.”