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Under State Law, You're Unlikely to Leave Leftover Pills at Pharmacies Anytime Soon

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"We don't want to attract more possible crime or people getting hurt."
John Gaeda

Walgreens announced plans to install take-back kiosks for prescription drugs at pharmacies around the country and in Connecticut, but the state's Department of Consumer Protection said those kiosks aren't likely to appear here anytime soon. 

Walgreens said the drop boxes would be like those already installed in some police departments in Connecticut: locked, one-way kiosks where a consumer can, no questions asked, dispose of medications and controlled substances like prescription opioids.

But John Gadea, a pharmacist and director of drug control for the state Department of Consumer Protection, said Walgreens can't do this.

"You are bringing controlled substances that are from an unauthorized source into a pharmacy," he said. "And even though it's waste, there's no mechanism for that, currently."

Put simply, Gadea said state law doesn't allow pharmacists to take back drugs from the general public. And he said Walgreens gave his agency no notice about installing the drop boxes before making their announcement.

Across the state, Gadea said there are already prescription drop boxes at dozens of police departments. Officers can collect leftover pills, including opioids, by treating the drugs as "abandoned property," which they are able to destroy securely in accordance with state and federal law.

Gadea said pharmacies like Walgreens can't do that, and said the idea could also could be risky to on-site pharmacists. "You have this pot of drugs there," he said. "A basket -- I know it's in a box, but still -- you wind up in a situation where some pharmacies are open 24 hours, their staffing is minimal; what do you do at that point?" he asked. "We don't want to attract more possible crime or people getting hurt."

In an email to WNPR, a Walgreens spokesperson said the company reviewed each state's requirements and will be in contact with Connecticut officials as it continues rolling out drop boxes across the country. 

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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