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Letter: Misused medicines are killing Cook County residents. Here's how we can stop it
Mariyana Spyropoulos and Debra Shore commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Friday, September 09, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Mariyana Spyropoulos and Debra Shore

 

We are facing an imminent public health crisis, and the threat is usually found in our medicine cabinets. Unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs, accumulating in many of our homes, pose a real and present danger. Forty-four Americans die and 7,000 more are hospitalized for misusing medications every day.

Here in Cook County, there were 153 deaths and 4,915 emergency room admissions in 2013 due to prescription drug misuse. Misuse of medications is a gateway to the abuse of other substances; half of young people who inject heroin report abusing prescription opioids first.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners may vote this upcoming week on a measure governing the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals in Cook County. If passed, this ordinance would help protect the safety and well-being of county residents as well as the quality of our water.

The ordinance would expand an existing collection program developed and administered by the Cook County Sheriff's Office. Safe, secure collection sites would be accessible to all residents of Cook County. It would expand collection sites to pharmacies that wish to participate and to hospitals and clinics. The proposed ordinance would also require the producers of pharmaceutical drugs to provide financial support by assessing a modest fee for the collection and disposal of unwanted and expired pharmaceuticals.

Here's why this ordinance is so important:

  • Providing safe, secure, readily accessible collection sites for unused and expired drugs is a matter of public safety. Seniors can accidentally mix medications and drug abusers often rifle through medicine cabinets looking for unused medicines.
  • Flushing or throwing away pharmaceuticals affects our water supply. Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have already been discovered in waters and aquatic species in Cook County. These antibiotics and other drugs that are flushed or poured into a sink cannot be removed in our wastewater treatment process.
  • The proposed ordinance will increase the number of drug collection locations and broaden access across Cook County.

The ordinance prohibits prescription drug producers from raising the cost of drugs to cover the program or charging collecting fees for drop-off sites or mail-back envelopes. According to the Product Stewardship Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, industry-funded programs in Europe and Canada have not resulted in increased drug costs.

We fully support the speedy passage of this ordinance and urge the Cook County Board to demonstrate national leadership for public health, safety and the environment.

President Mariyana Spyropoulos, Commissioner Debra Shore and the commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District



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