New legislation, approved by Congress that includes provision allowing qualified hospice employees to safely dispose of expired or no longer needed medication is being well received. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization today applauded Members of Congress for including key provisions related to safe disposal of expired or no longer needed medication in the final opioid legislative package that has passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support.
“Opioid abuse is truly a national crisis, and one that the hospice community is dedicated to helping prevent and treat,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach. “In fact, as a key part of this nation’s grief support safety net, hospices are acutely aware of the toll that this epidemic takes on families and communities.”
A provision in the passed bill will help reduce the number of unused controlled substances at risk of diversion or misuse by allowing qualified hospice employees to safely dispose of these medications on site after the death of a patient, or when the controlled substance is expired or no longer needed because the hospice patient’s plan of care has been modified.
Granting appropriate hospice professionals the legal authority to dispose of unused medication after a hospice patient’s death would not only alleviate grieving families of this responsibility but also help prevent potential diversion or illicit use of these drugs.
Opioids play a key role in alleviating pain and suffering for those with advanced illness and at the end of life. Patients admitted to hospice care frequently require intensive medication management of both chronic conditions and symptoms associated with end-stage disease such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea, delirium, and depression. Our nation’s hospice and palliative care providers can be an important part of the care continuum for people with serious pain, including those with serious illness and facing the end of life, and should be looked at as a resource for these populations.