Cook County sheriff Tom Dart announced a partnership with CVS Health this week to ramp up
awareness about proper prescription medication disposal, widening the county’s crackdown against ongoing opioid abuse.
On Thursday, Dart joined with CVS Pharmacy district leader Pooja Patel in a press conference at west suburban Oak Park to tout the new protocol, which requires pharmacists at about 150 CVS locations to instruct patients on how to safely toss unused prescription drugs, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.
Pharmacists must now explain to patients what their prescription’s packaging says about the nearest safe disposal locations under a drug take-back program the sheriff’s office unveiled in 2012.
“This partnership will help ensure more prescription drugs are safely disposed and not available for abuse,” Dart said in the press release. “In the midst of the unrelenting opioid crisis, this is an important step that can help ensure potentially dangerous prescriptions do not end up in the wrong hands.”
Dart’s announcement came two days before the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Last year, 11.4 million Americans misused prescription painkillers — and 83 percent of them obtained the drugs through a friend or relative, either through an exchange or from stealing, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The burgeoning issue of opioid painkiller addiction has a hold on Cook County residents as well, with 1,150 opioid-related deaths documented in Cook County last year. Two-thirds of the deaths came from Chicago. In 2016, the county saw 745 opioid-related deaths.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle slapped a lawsuit against national pharmaceutical companies on December 2017 for marketing the prescription drugs. Several suburban Chicago counties also sued opioid manufacturers earlier that month, and in March, the city sparked another legal fight by filing a federal suit against opioid distributors for promoting “rampant over-prescribing and abuse” of pharmaceutical opioids.
The sheriff’s office’s drug take-back program collects almost 2,000 pounds of discarded medication each month at over 100 sites in the county, according to Dart’s Thursday press release. CVS Health operates 45 drug disposal sites throughout its Illinois pharmacies and works with 33 police departments in the state.
“Unused medications, especially opioids, should not be left in medicine cabinets where they could be at risk of misuse or diversion,” Tom Davis, CVS Pharmacy’s vice president of professional services, said in the Thursday press release. “We look forward to adding to our collection totals this weekend on Take-Back Day.”
Locations for Cook County drug disposal sites can be found at the Sheriff’s Office website or by calling 1-844-688-7379.