You may have seen your local county advertise about their drug take back programs where you can dispose safely of unwanted and unused prescription drugs. There was a big national drive in the US on 30th April but these take back programs happen regularly, not just at the end of April. Here’s why they do this and why it’s so important to dispose of unused and unwanted medications properly.
Failing to dispose of prescription medication can have fatal consequences for those you find your drugs and decide for whatever reason to use them.
A study published in the Journal of American Pharmacists and conducted by Geisinger Health System have collated which medications get most left unused by patients with Part D coverage. They numbered 247 in total but the breakdown is very worrying. The most common medications left unused are often the most dangerous if they find themselves in the wrong hands.
What’s even more worrying is that most of these meds get left in medicine cabinets or are simply thrown in the trash can. Only 11% are disposed of correctly through drug take back programs. Really the government and local counties need to work on their marketing and incentivize citizens to dispose of meds properly. 11% is a shockingly low percentage…. and that’s with the rise of national drug take back programs.
There are many reasons why these meds get left unused and unwanted. You might had had adverse side effects or you have switched meds or you simply don’t need them anymore. With the high level of abuse of prescription medications in the US it is imperative that everyone learns to dispose of them correctly so they don’t fall into the wrong hand. The most dangerous thing to do is to keep them in your medicine cabinet. While it seems like a secure place it is open to the most accidents, especially if you have young inquisitive children or grandchildren in the house. Teenagers are especially more likely to take random drugs that they come across.
We need to educate! First of all, we need to educate children and teenagers (and adults for that matter) on the danger of taking prescription medications that have not been prescribed to them specifically. Many people do not realize that these medications can be dangerous or even fatal when taken by someone who does not actually need them. Also, prescription medications have drug interactions, meaning that one drug should not be taken alongside another drug as it can cause unwanted side effects or cause the medication to not work properly. When your Dr. prescribes you and RX they make an informed choice on what meds they prescribe as they are aware of what drugs you are taking, when you use someone else’s meds you could unknowingly cause a drug interaction.
A staggering 60,000 children find their way into the ER after taking medications that do not belong to them, most of the time these meds belong to family members.
If you are older you might feel that flushing drugs down the toilet is the way to dispose of them correctly, that’s what used to be recommended many years ago. Times have changed though. What happens is the meds dissolve and find their way into the sewage treatment plants and they lack the ability to rid the system of the residue. Now the recommended way is to dispose of them via the pharmacy or local/national drug take back programs.
The government need to do more to spread the word about drug disposal safety. National drug take back programs are happening more frequently which is great, but we strongly believe there needs to be more education. There should be signs in the pharmacies, there should be disposal boxes in the pharmacies, there should be personal counselling every time your talk with the pharmacist while they are dispensing the meds. There doesn’t need to be a big marketing budget allocated, there just needs to be responsible pharmacies and pharmacists who take the time to put up signs and counsel patients. National drug take back programs just aren’t enough, the word and availability to dispose of meds correctly needs to be everywhere. IsraelPharm.com is an online pharmacy so we don’t have such a program but we always try to remind customers that unused meds needs to be disposed of correctly. In Israel, the healthcare system provides drug disposal boxes in all their branches so you can dispose of unused and unwanted meds locally, year round.
Here’s a useful link from the FDA about safe disposal of drugs.