King County to set up its own drug take-back program

SEATTLE -- After weeks of deliberation, the King County Board of Health unanimously approved a new regulation Thursday that would establish a drug take-back program.

The program would be paid for by pharmaceutical companies that sell drugs within the county.

As a first responder, Scott DePuy has seen numerous cases of prescription drug overdoses. One case in particular changed his life forever. Five years ago, DePuy's 17 year-old son, Ryan, accidentally consumed a lethal cocktail of pills.

DePuy said, “Ryan had four different medications in his body. Two were prescriptions and two were over the counter. Neither of the prescriptions were his.”

DePuy believes Ryan got hooked on pills at home. He is just one of many casualties of prescription drug abuse, but a new drug take-back program in King County could help.

Inga Manskopf is a drug addiction expert at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Manskopf said, “The problem that we’re concerned about is that leftover medications stay in medicine cabinets and kids get their hands on them, young adults and adolescents get their hands on them and abuse them.”

Under the new program, people will be able to safely dispose of unwanted and expired medications at a number of pharmacies and law enforcement offices across the county at the pharmaceutical companies’ expense. The federal government conducts a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day every year.

It wouldn’t be a magic pill to cure the problem but it would slow the growing abuse of pills that often leads to other addictions.

Manskopf said, “What we’re finding in the adolescent substance abuse program is that kids who start using them are getting addicted to them and when they get too expensive, they turn to heroin so we’re seeing an increase in the number of heroin addictions.”

DePuy has battled this issue since his son’s death. Over the last four years, similar bills in Olympia never make it past committee. An estimated $1 billion of prescription drugs are sold in King County every year.  This program would force pharmaceutical companies to literally take their own medicine.

“We think everyone is doing their fair share. We think everyone is trying to help this problem except for the pharmaceutical industry,” DePuy said.