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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: September 14, 2017 01:48 PM
From: Senator Lisa Baker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Opioid Epidemic / Drug Disposal after Hospice Care
As all of us diligently work to erase the scourge of opioid abuse, an area of concern has arisen in home care and hospice. Following a patient’s death, unused medications which often include prescribed narcotics are not disposed of properly.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) adopted final rulemaking regarding the disposal of pharmaceutical controlled substances in accordance with the Controlled Substance Act. Accordingly, a member of the hospice patient’s household may dispose of the patient’s pharmaceutical controlled substances but the home hospice provider cannot do so unless otherwise authorized by (state) law to dispose of the decedent’s personal property.

Thus, currently in Pennsylvania, hospice workers cannot dispose of the unused drugs and must work to return the supply to the family. This process can, and has in some cases, been abused with undesirable outcomes. Additionally, this places another burden on grieving families as they must seek out a legal collection mechanism in their home county.

Several states are heeding the direction of the DEA and passing laws giving hospice staff the authority to properly destroy unused drugs following a patient’s death. Other states are working towards such a law and Pennsylvania should as well.

With hospice care growing (enrollment is now greater than 1.5 million people a year), improving this drug chain of command is sensible and will no doubt work to curb the opioid epidemic.

Introduced as SB978