Washington County board adopts drug takeback ordinance

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department

At their meeting today, the Washington County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed Ordinance 848, which requires drug manufacturers that sell their products in Washington County to provide and fund a safe and convenient way to dispose of unused medications. The ordinance goes into effect on June 6.

“Oregon has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid misuse in the country, and we are certainly not immune from this epidemic here in Washington County,” says Board Chair Kathryn Harrington. “With this new ordinance, we hope to reduce addiction and the harm it causes families and individuals by making the safe disposal of medicine easier for every member of our community.”

The ordinance will use an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model that follows similar initiatives to deal with old and unused paint, eliminate amalgam from the dental waste stream, and recover electronic equipment from the waste stream. The model reduces the negative impacts to public health and the environment over the lifecycle of products.

The ordinance applies to both prescription and over-the-counter human medicines. The ordinance does not include sharps disposal. Other key components of the ordinance:

  • Drug manufacturers will design, fund and implement a plan to manage drug collection.
  • Drug manufacturers will securely collect unwanted medicines from the public.
  • Drug manufacturers will increase access to drug collection kiosks by providing a minimum number of collection sites to residents based on population.
  • Drug manufacturers are required to offer education and outreach to consumers on the safe and secure storage of medications as well as the inherent risks of improperly storing or disposing of opioids, and to discourage disposal of covered drugs in the garbage or sewer system.
  • Pharmacies and law enforcement agencies can volunteer to participate in a manufacturer’s plan to host drug collection kiosks.          

Similar ordinances have been adopted by three states (Washington, California and New York), seven counties in Washington, 12 in California, and Cook County, Illinois. These programs have resulted in increased collection of medications. A drug takeback program in San Francisco has resulted in pharmacies collecting 80,437 pounds, compared to law enforcement collection of 4,095 pounds during the same timeframe.

“We are pleased the board has shown such tremendous support for this ordinance,” says Health and Human Services Director Marni Kuyl. “Providing a safe and easy way for people to dispose of their unwanted and extra drugs will have a tremendous impact on the public's health."

Washington County Public Health will be responsible for oversight of the drug takeback program.

Media Contact:

Wendy Gordon, Communications Coordinator/PIO