Fate of medication rule unclear as Trump suspends EPA activity

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Fate of medication rule unclear as Trump suspends EPA activity
Fate of medication rule unclear as Trump suspends EPA activity

The status of a rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that could force assisted living communities and continuing care retirement / life plan communities to take responsibility for managing the disposal of residents' medication is unclear after President Donald Trump, according to the Associated Press, ordered a “temporary suspension” of all new business activities at the agency.

The EPA is prohibited from issuing grants, task orders or work assignments to contractors, the news-gathering organization said Tuesday, citing emails to staff members that it had reviewed. Trump also banned the agency from issuing press releases, blog updates or social media posts, the AP said. The EPA's website has not been updated, and its social media accounts have not shared information, since Trump's inauguration on Friday.

“The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide,” the AP said, noting that agency representatives had not returned telephone calls or emails requesting comment on Monday or Tuesday.

Similar restrictions reportedly were put in place at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.

As McKnight's Senior Living previously reported, the EPA published a proposed rule in September 2015 that, if finalized as written, would prohibit healthcare facilities from disposing down the toilet or drain those pharmaceuticals considered to be hazardous waste. The rule defined healthcare facilities to include assisted living communities, CCRCs and other senior living and healthcare settings.

One issue with the rule, industry groups told the agency in submitted comments, is that it does not recognize that assisted living and CCRC environments differ from skilled nursing facilities, which manage all resident medications. Many assisted living residents manage their own medications, a community's residents may obtain their medications from several different pharmacies, and assisted living communities are regulated at the state level, with requirements varying from state to state, they said. All of those factors complicate the ability of assisted living communities and CCRCs to comply with the rule and to ensure proper drug disposal without incurring significant expense with no remuneration, according to the groups.

Among the organizations submitting comments about the rule to the EPA were the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, Argentum, LeadingAge, the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, the National Association for the Support of Long-Term Care, the National Community Pharmacists Association, the Senior Care Pharmacy Coalition and pharmacy group purchasing organization GeriMed.

The EPA originally expected to finalize the rule in 2016. A government website now indicates that finalization is expected sometime this year, although the exact timing is not specified. The rule will be effective six months after it is finalized.

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