|NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S Porrino is calling on licensed professionals across the state to join New Jersey’s battle against opioid addiction by encouraging their clients to purge their medicine cabinets of unneeded prescription drugs that could be stolen for abuse or sale on the streets.
In letters going out this week to members of the real estate, health care, and funeral home industries, Attorney General Porrino is asking licensed professionals to promote New Jersey’s “Project Medicine Drop” as a safe and convenient way for their clients to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs, including potent opioid medications that can lead to addiction.
“Dealers and those stricken with the disease of addiction, will seize any opportunity to pilfer pain pills and other narcotics, even from someone’s medicine cabinet while posing as prospective home buyers at a real estate open house or scouring the obituaries in search of a home to burglarize,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Professionals who encourage their clients to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs through Project Medicine Drop can help stem the tide of addiction by preventing these drugs from falling into the wrong hands.”
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), four out of five new heroin users begin their addictions with prescription pain medication, often stolen from the medicine cabinets of others. Thieves have been known to rummage through medicine cabinets during real estate open houses, while doing in-home contracting work, and while visiting senior housing facilities. They’ve also been known to scour the obituaries in search of someone who died from a lengthy illness that may have required pain medication, and then burglarized the home during the funeral service.
Attorney General Porrino has asked the New Jersey Department of Health, which licenses health care facilities, and the Department of Banking and Insurance, which licenses real estate brokers and agents, to disseminate his letters to their licensees to spread the word about the drug theft threat.
Additionally, the Division of Consumer Affairs will issue the letter to nursing agencies and funeral home directors licensed by the professional boards within the Division.
“The battle against addiction must be fought on all fronts,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “New Jersey’s licensed professionals are in a unique position to speak directly to clients and enlist their help in making sure the contents of their medicine cabinets aren’t fueling New Jersey’s drug crisis.”
Project Medicine Drop, developed by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, thwarts the diversion of unused prescription drugs by allowing consumers to dispose of them anonymously, seven days a week, 365 days a year, at "drop boxes" located within the headquarters of participating police departments.
Since the launch of Project Medicine Drop in 2011, 215 drop boxes have been installed at police departments throughout the state, including two military installations and several college campuses. To date, more than 78 tons of unwanted medicine has been collected and safely destroyed through incineration. In 2015, the Project Medicine Drop program was expanded to include “mobile drop boxes” for use at community events, senior centers, and senior living communities. Drop Boxes accept solid pharmaceuticals such as pills, capsules, patches, inhalers, and pet medications. They cannot accept syringes or liquids.
The promotion of Project Medicine Drop is part of the State’s ongoing efforts to fight the diversion and abuse of opioids that have paved the way to an addiction crisis driving up overdose deaths and ravaging communities across New Jersey. Among the initiatives undertaken by Attorney General Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs are:
- Five-Day Limit on Opioid Prescriptions – Using his emergency powers, Attorney General Porrino has initiated changes in state regulations to impose a five-day limit on initial prescriptions of opioid painkillers to treat acute pain. In initiating the change, Attorney General Porrino said reducing the current 30-day supply limit for opioids will lower the risk of patients becoming addicted, and will reduce the chances of unused drugs falling into the hands of those who might abuse them, or sell them for abuse.
- Crackdown on Indiscriminate Prescribing – In 2016, a record 31 doctors and other prescribers saw their practicing authority revoked, suspended, or otherwise restricted for allegedly putting the public at risk by indiscriminately prescribing highly addictive Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS). Six other licensed professionals were also disciplined for alleged improper prescription, distribution, or diversion of narcotics. The Division also terminated a printing company’s authority to print prescription blanks for physicians after finding the company failed to follow security requirements and issued 25,000 blanks to unauthorized individuals.
- Emergency Ban on Counterfeit Fentanyl – Intervening to stop an imminent threat to public safety and health, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs executed an Emergency Order banning the manufacture, distribution, sale, and possession of seven illegal knock-offs of the highly addictive opioid fentanyl. The Order added the seven “fentanyl analogs” – derivatives of the regulated prescription drug - to the list of Schedule I CDS in New Jersey, subjecting them to the strictest level of state control. Prior to the ban, the drugs, which are produced in clandestine labs in countries like China, Germany, Japan, and Mexico, were not recognized as CDS by the DEA, stranding them in a legal grey zone that permitted them to be peddled in New Jersey with virtual impunity.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
- Expansion of the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) – The Division continues to expand and improve access to this searchable data-tracking system that keeps records of prescriptions filled in New Jersey for CDS. The information can be used by prescribers to spot patterns of prescription drug diversion or misuse by their patients, including “doctor shopping” to obtain CDS from multiple providers. Most recently, the Division expanded its interstate data-sharing capabilities to include New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Minnesota.
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