Pills in our pipelines

Legislators should impose stricter rules on pharmaceutical disposals.

Every year, billions of dollars in pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed, distributed and either consumed or left to expire in medicine cabinets. Common âÄî and in some places, mandatory âÄî practice is to send unused drugs down the drain or into the trash. Recently, studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and other groups have detected significant concentrations of pharmaceutical drugs in rivers, fish, frogs and groundwater nationwide. That includes Minnesota. Chisago County, however, has implemented a project thatâÄôs slowly popping up in cities and counties around the nation. ItâÄôs established a public repository for unused drugs. Old and expired pills can be anonymously deposited at the sheriffâÄôs office in Center City and then incinerated. The Star Tribune reports that last year they disposed of literally a ton of pharmaceuticals. In light of the success the Chisago facility has seen, Rep. Paul Gardner, DFL-Shoreview, has introduced legislation that would press drug companies to fund similar facilities around the state. GardnerâÄôs goals include not only preventing further environmental contamination but also cutting back on incidences of âÄúdrug partiesâÄù at which high school students share drugs stolen from parentsâÄô pill drawers. Pharmaceutical companies have a clear reason to oppose this legislation, and they cite studies of their own that explain drug levels are not dangerous to humans. They also warn that the proposed program could drive up the cost of generic drugs. Minnesotans, however, should be excited about the prospect of being the first state to adopt a pharmaceutical disposal program. With 10,000-plus lakes, weâÄôve got a lot of water to protect.