Secure Medicine Return in King County - Drug Manufacturer-Provided Services!

Residents of King County WA now have access to the most convenient drug take-back program for secure and environmentally sound disposal of leftover medicines in the state, and perhaps in the entire country!  Under a landmark law enacted by the King County Board of Health, medicine manufacturers are coordinating and financing a convenient and secure medicine return system.

  • More than 100 secure drop boxes at pharmacies, medical centers, hospitals, and police stations around the county.
  • All medicines used in the home are accepted - prescription drugs including controlled substances and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Pre-paid return mailers are also available upon request for homebound or differentially-abled residents.

The county-wide secure medicine return system was officially launched in mid-January 2017 by MED-Project – a stewardship organization working on behalf of over 410 medicine manufacturers.  MED-Project designed the program to meet the county law’s criteria, and to comply with the DEA’s Rule for medicine take-back and other safety regulations.

Before the MED-Project manufacturers' program there were only 13 ongoing medicine drop boxes in King County, population roughly 2 million. 10 of those drop boxes were at police stations in smaller cities or towns.  MED-Project now provides 70 drop boxes throughout the county at pharmacies and 17 drop boxes at law enforcement offices.  Additional pharmacies and other collectors can join the program, so this number will grow!

NEW MED-Project Program Overview Handout! learn about the new pharmaceutical stewardship program!
For Residents of King County - find a secure medicine drop box near you here.

photos of secure medicine drop boxes in King County, WA

The MED-Project program in King County was established under a county regulation that is very similar to WA's new Secure Drug Take-Back Act.

This is the first comprehensive manufacturer-provided medicine return system in the United States! MED-Project is also working to implement other county programs required under pharmaceutical stewardship ordinances enacted in Washington State and in California.
See the growing list of county locations here.

Summary of King County’s Secure Medicine Return Regulations

Full Text of King County BOH Chapter 11.50

How much does this medicine take-back program cost manufacturers?

Costs to all drug manufacturers are only about 0.1% of medicines sales – a small investment for public safety!  
Annual medicine sales are about $1.7 billion in King County. An estimated cost of the county-wide take-back program to all manufacturers collectively is $1.5-$2 million per year, that’s about 0.1% for product safety.

The county regulation requires drug manufacturers to pay for costs of drug take-back program operation and administration include collection supplies, medicine pick-up, transportation, disposal, and education about safe medicine storage and disposal for residents and healthcare providers.  Pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies contribute by volunteering to host and staff a secure drop box that is serviced by MED-Project.

Implementation Status

Medicine producers created a stewardship plan that was approved by King County.  The medicine take-back program officially launched on January 17, 2017. More than 350 medicine producers are participating in the MED-Project stewardship organization to finance and operate the program.

Both King County and Alameda County, the first county to pass a medicine take-back law, were sued in federal court by pharmaceutical industry associations. The Alameda lawsuit worked through the federal courts during 2013 and 2014, and the industry’s legal complaint was rejected at every level. In May 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the industry’s request to review lower court rulings. This lawsuit delayed, but did not halt, implementation of the law in King County.

Secure drop boxes must be distributed throughout the county. Producers are also required to partner with any pharmacy or law enforcement site that offers to host a drop box. In any areas lacking drop boxes, periodic collection events or pre-paid return mailers must be provided. Pre-paid return mailers must also be available for home-bound or differentially-abled residents.


WE DID IT!! We won producer responsibility for unwanted medicine in King County.

Kudos to the King County Board of Health for passing this landmark law - only the 2nd in the country - in June 2013.

What will this mean?

  • Residents will be able to bring their unwanted medicines, free-of-charge to convenient locations in King County
  • Collected medicines will be disposed of at properly permitted facilities
  • Drug manufacturers selling medicines in King County will be required to provide and pay for the program
  • Public Health – Seattle & King County will oversee the program to ensure its effectiveness and safety

Zero Waste Washington collaborated with dozens of individuals and groups to support the passage of King County’s secure medicine return policy and we've been workng for producer responsibility for medicines in Washington since 2005. We are proud to have been one of the leaders of a highly effective, diverse coalition that brought together substance abuse prevention groups, children’s advocates, health professionals, and environmental organizations. Thanks to our members and all those who contacted the King County Board of Health about this important issue . . . and to the Board of Health for taking this thoughtful and groundbreaking action. Having this program in King County is a great step towards making it happen state-wide.

Last Updated (Monday, 02 April 2018 15:03)