Numerous Alameda County officials, law enforcement and drug and environmental agency experts gathered at the on Wednesday for a day-long Safe Medical Disposal Conference.
Hosted by , in partnership with the Senior Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Prevention Workgroup, the conference aimed to address the need to protect youths, seniors and the environment from the potentially harmful effects of improperly tossing away these medications.
However, the conference was also conducted to spark discussion over that would be based on product stewardship — holding producers and manufacturers financially responsible for properly disposing of unwanted and unused medications and identifying possible drug take-back sites in each Alameda County city.
Miley said that although he expects the pharmaceutical industry to challenge the ordinance, he is willing to put up a fight because he believes it is "good public policy."
"If they're going to have products that we're going to use, I expect them to complete the loop," he said.
Based on a 2009 study conducted by Berkeley's Teleosis Institute, more than 65,000 pounds of pharmaceuticals were collected from 126 drug take-back sites across the Bay Area. Incinerating the drugs costed the counties nearly $120,000.
The six-hour conference featured a dozen speakers, including: Nancy O'Malley, Alameda County District Attorney; Greg Ahern, Alameda County Sheriff's Department; and Alex Briscoe, Director of the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency.
They talked about related topics such as "pharm parties," a growing trend among teenage drug abusers who share drugs taken from their familys' medicine cabinets.
Presenters also brought up the possibility of following in the footsteps of other countries such as France, Spain and certain provinces of Canada, where their governments provide oversight on collection programs funded by drug manufacturers.
Under the current ordinance draft, the county's Department of Environmental Health would establish fees to implement, administer and enforce the ordinance.
Drug producers and manufacturers could potentially face penalties of up to $1,000 per day if found in violation of the ordinance. However, retailers placing their own store labels on drugs created by foreign manufacturers would be exempt.
Knowing and willful violators of the ordinance would then be charged with a misdemenaor.
Several city officials shared their current pharmaceutical disposal programs, which include permanent drug take-back sites and collection events. Miley said that despite the lengthy process in passing an ordinance, getting a drop box installed in every city could be a more easily achieved short-term solution.
Many at the conference had concerns over the implementation process. As drafted, prescription drugs would be scheduled as the first phase of medications to be collected. Over-the-counter medications and then controlled substances (if permitted by federal laws and regulations) would follow.
Linda Pratt, program director for , said that based on the current method used by many take-back sites, this phase-in system seems to be unnecessarily complicated.
"From what's happening now, people just dispose of everything at once in one place," she said.
Miley said he plans to analyze all the questions and suggestions offered Monday and work them into the second draft of the ordinance. He said about three or four drafts can be expected before the ordinance is presented one of two ways.
It can either go before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors or be part of a county-wide ballot. Miley said he prefers the second option.
"If we can't get the voters to pass something we think is good, then maybe we shouldn't pass it," he said.
In a related development, San Leandro's Senior Community Center will now receive expired prescription and over-the counter medications for proper disposal.
Simply empty pills into a zip lock bag, but keep liquids in their original containers and place in a zip lock bag.
Controlled substances such as Vicodin, Codeine, Valium, etc. are not accepted.
Drop off medications during normal business hours at the San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th Street, Monday – Friday 8:30am – 3:00pm.