N.J. moves to stop hospitals from dumping drugs down the drain

A measure to prohibit health-care facilities from discharging prescription drugs into public wastewater systems is making its way through the New Jersey Legislature.

Neil Eicher of the New Jersey Hospital Association said hospitals already are in compliance with federal regulations for getting rid of drugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has a list of about 30 medications recommended for disposal by dumping them down the drain, he said.

“The DEA wants to make sure that these prescription medications do not get in the hands of abusers,” Eicher said. “My understanding is it’s a small portion of a hospital’s day-to-day interaction with medication, so I don’t think it’s that great an amount of medication.”

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Sponsors of the legislation say they want to prevent drugs that are flushed away from ending up in the water supply, are urging that those unwanted medications be incinerated.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Bergen, said the federal regulations allow hospitals to dump morphine-derivative drugs and other medications into the public wastewater system.

“We don’t want these drugs to end up in the water supply. Just like we ask the homeowners not to throw their drugs down the toilet,” he said. “We ask them to bring them to the police station where they’re properly incinerated.”

Hospitals say new requirements would increase their costs and cause financial hardship.

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