New suggestions for the disposing of old prescription medications

Back in May of last year, I wrote about disposing of old medications. I drew my conclusion from an EPA suggestion that stated the best method of disposing of old medication was to simply flush it down the toilet.

Last month, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy advised people to “take unused, unneeded or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw them in the trash.” They also advise mixing the meds with kitty litter or used coffee grounds and putting them in “impermeable, nondescript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags”

Now Harvard Med has taken this advice one step further:

  1. Ask your pharmacist if he or she can take back medications.
  2. Call your city or state to ask about disposal programs like those mentioned above.
  3. If you need to put your medications in the trash, keep them in their original childproof and watertight containers. Leave the label on, but scratch out your name to protect privacy. Add some water to pills, and put some flour in liquids. Conceal the vials by putting them in empty margarine tubs or paper bags before throwing them out.

Like I said last year, we do take back old meds, but they just go in our PHI trash to be destroyed back at the home office — or wherever that stuff goes. I think I like the third suggestion the best, though. Good common sense seems to apply pretty well in this case if you’re paranoid.

Incidentally, I don’t think press releases and suggestions like these are a waste of time and money. With our increasingly medication-happy culture, I think they’re timely and poignant. You don’t get taught in pharmacy school how to dispose of medication. Not at my school, anyway.

[tags]Medicine, pharmacy, prescription drugs, pollution[/tags]

4 thoughts on “New suggestions for the disposing of old prescription medications

  1. Many states are instituting “take back” programs at a consumer level due to concerns about environmental pollution, namely groundwater. Washington State is looking at such a program, modeled after one in British Columbia, Canada.

    Interestingly, the pharmaceutical companies have been very active in supporting these programs. GSK has been a leader in this space doing environment impact studies on many of their products.

    Now, at an institutional/pharmacy level, there needs to be better options than flushing or dumping.

  2. Now, at an institutional/pharmacy level, there needs to be better options than flushing or dumping.

    Re: the institutional level. This seems somewhat ironic, given the incredibly high per-capita usage of prescription medications (both dispensing and using). I would have thought that they’d be the first to institute such programs.

    I’ll have to ask some of my friends and Mass General, Brigham and Womens, and Beth Israel if they have anything like that in place…

  3. I can’t believe that the EPA advises people to flush their meds. In the UK all patients are advised to return any unneeded meds to a pharmacy so they can be disposed of properly (by incineration I believe). I had a contractor come today to make a collection: he took seven bin bags of returned meds away. Some of our returns make me fume – I had someone return two boxes of Casodex 150mg tabs that hadn’t even been opened (and the patient is still alive). These cost the government £240 a time!

  4. I had someone return two boxes of Casodex 150mg tabs that hadn’t even been opened (and the patient is still alive). These cost the government £240 a time!

    Your fabulous tax dollars at work. ;) This is one of the reasons I’m glad we don’t have universal healthcare in the US. The waste would gall my naturally efficient nature too much. ;)

    I will be linking to your blog, btw, in an upcoming feature featuring… Casodex! :)

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