Monday, October 6, 2008

Unused Medications: Don't Flush Them Down the Toilet

pharmaceutical disposal box at police station

It's No Drugs Down the Drain week here in California, as Apartment Therapy points out. Well, you don't want to put unused medications down the drain any week, but it seems the state is running an educational campaign right now.

So what DO you do to safely dispose of those drugs? Here are some guidelines. I'm sorry that most of this information is USA-specific; I'd love to hear from readers in other countries as to how this is handled where you live.

1. Take them to a drop-off location as shown in Earth 911; search on Medication.

These are often household hazardous waste disposal sites or events.

In my area, a number of police departments have special drop-off bins; that's one of them in the photo above. (Yes, it's a refurbished postal service mailbox.) Some other police departments do this, too: Winston, Oregon is one.

2. Take them to a pharmacy.

Not all pharmacies have a take-back program for expired or unused medications, but some do. For example:

- In the San Francisco Bay Area, Elephant Pharmacy has a take-back program, as does the Palo Alto Medical Foundation pharmacy department. Update on March 9, 2009: Sadly, Elephant Pharmacy has gone out of business. Update on August 18, 2011: The Palo Alto Medical Foundation web site no longer mentions the take-back program, but I just called the Palo Alto pharmacy and confirmed the program is still in place.

- In Washington, a number of pharmacies are participating in the state's Unwanted Medicine Return Program. Update on August 18, 2011: Some pharmacies and some law enforcement offices now provide drop-off locations for unwanted medicines The pharmacies cannot accept medicines classified as controlled substances.
- In Illinois, there's the Pontiac Prescription Drug Disposal Program.

3. Participate in a local mail-back program.

I don't know if there are many of these, but here are two:

- Maine's program for older adults.

- Wisconsin's mail-in program (for two counties only, as of now) called Get the Meds Out.

4. Donate them to an organization that will get them to needy people.

RAMP (Recycled AIDS Medication Program) "gathers unused HIV medicines and delivers them to organizations overseas."

The Starfish Project "collects the unused 'leftover' medication from patients in the United States who have stopped or changed their antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. All drugs have patient identification removed before they are sorted, labeled, and shipped to our partner clinics in Nigeria." Update on August 18, 2011: The web site for this project has disappeared.

And some states have drug repositories.

5. If you have no other good option, dispose of them following the instructions provided by the state of Washington.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your work on this, Jeri! Very useful. =)

Jeri Dansky said...

Glad to help, Anonymous!