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Seacoast Online on Senator Hassan Bipartisan Bill to Allow Safe Disposal of Unwanted Drugs in Hospice

Seacoast Online: Bill aims to ensure disposal of hospice drugs

By Karen Dandurant


CONCORD - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill last week aimed at closing one more loophole contributing to the opioid crisis.

The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act of 2018 is legislation intended to address the problem of unused prescription drugs when a patient is receiving hospice care at home. The bill was introduced by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

…Locally, Janice McDermott, executive director of the New Hampshire Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, said that group sent a letter of support for the bill, thanking the lawmakers for taking this important step.

“We are so pleased with the actions of our senators,” said McDermott. “Some states, but not ours, have created policies for hospice employees to address unused medication. Still the federal law trumps that. We are not allowed to remove any medication from a home because it legally belongs to the families.”

…McDermott said diversion is something home care nurses are concerned about.

“When we opened the hospice house in Merrimack, we were concerned that someone would break in looking for drugs,” said McDermott. “It didn’t happen, but we think about it. Nurses going to homes are very careful not to announce themselves too obviously in the neighborhoods. It is an ongoing issue.”

“Ensuring that unused prescription opioids are properly disposed of is critical to saving lives and combating the opioid crisis,” said Sen. Hassan. “This bipartisan measure seeks to ensure that unused opioids don’t get into the wrong hands by permitting hospice staff or emergency medical services professionals to dispose of controlled substances when a patient dies or when the medication expires. This is a common-sense step we can take to reduce the chances of substance misuse, and I will continue working with Sen. Collins and colleagues from both parties to advance this important legislation.”

…Hospice care workers are applauding the effort and say they support the legislation. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) also sent a letter in support of the Senators’ legislation.

“Your legislation works to address the challenges faced by hospice programs related to disposal of controlled substances and signals a clear understanding of the need for ‘real world’ solutions to enable willing hospice providers to reduce the potential for diversion or misuse of controlled substances in patients’ places of residence,” NAHC President William Dombi said. […]