Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act Passes Congress

By John A. Gilbert & William T. Koustas

The United States Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 (“the Act”) on September 29, 2010, and it is soon expected to be signed into law by the President. This Act is intended to allow individuals to more easily and safely dispose of controlled substances while reducing the chance of diversion. Under the Act, a patient who has “lawfully obtained a controlled substance” may now deliver unused portions of that controlled substance to another entity for destruction without a DEA registration if: 1) the person receiving controlled substance is “authorized” to do so under the Act; and 2) the drug is disposed of in accordance with regulations issued by the Attorney General.

The Act addresses a longstanding issue where patients were not allowed to return drugs to a DEA registrant because such a return would be outside the “closed chain of distribution” established by the Controlled Substances Act. This law will provide DEA with the authority to promulgate regulations to facilitate such returns but does not authorize DEA to mandate that entities establish a disposal program. The Act would allow the Attorney General to grant long-term care facilities (as defined by the Attorney General) the ability to dispose of controlled substances from residents in a manner that reduces diversion. In addition, any individual who is entitled to a decedent’s property may deliver any controlled substances in the decedent’s possession at the time of his or her death to a disposal program.

Finally, the Act requires the United States Sentencing Commission to review and potentially increase the Federal sentencing guidelines for people that receive controlled substances from patients or long-term care facilities as part of a disposal program but use them for illegal activities rather than properly disposing of them.