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Those Unused Medicines In Your Cabinet

Imagine you are at your favorite restaurant. You finished a sumptuous meal and, before long, the waiter comes by, removes your dishes and eventually begins the cleaning process by scraping any remnants and leftovers into the garbage. This is a natural procedure and we hardly give it any thought.

When it comes to disposing of our left-over or unused prescription and over-the-counter medications, things are not the same. We do need to give it some serious thought. In the past, people were actually advised to flush unused drugs down the toilet. Many of these discarded chemicals eventually end up in our water and the consequences could be serious.

A recent  study  found  that  more than half of the over 300 respondents got rid of their old medications  by either flushing them  down  the  toilet or pouring down the sink. Present day water treatment systems are not designed to remove many pharmaceuticals from the drinking water. As an example, the medicine Coumadin (generic- warfarin) a frequently prescribed anti-coagulant, can have possibly lethal effects on fish and animals. Even small amounts, when ingested, block the synthesis of vitamin K, an essential component for normal blood clotting. The result could be spontaneous and uncontrolled bleeding. This could become an unfortunate reality due to an innocent flushing of Coumadin down the toilet.

Most patients believe that  the pharmacy   in   which   they   purchased the medications can take them back. Ironically, state laws prohibit such a practice. A new way to dispose of many medications has to be found, and indeed, alternate methods are now available. Incineration is the preferred method of drug disposal. Being that most patients and readers hopefully do not own a mediation incinerator (check your local state laws), procedures to transport the medications to an approved incinerator system are emerging around  the country. There are two such examples. Many pharmacies now sell products which allow the consumer to mail their unwanted medications to a safe disposal area. One such item is the Take Away Environmental Return system by sharps. com. The retail value of this particular system is $3.99. It is a no hassle mail back program. But it does come with a small fee to purchase the empty envelope.

There are also community and federally sponsored take-back programs. These events allow the public to anonymously return unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. It is usually carried out at no charge to the consumer. Federally sponsored event times are posted on the DEA website.

Besides the consumers, manufacturers and  retailers,  as  well,  must   conform to the correct disposal procedures of medications. Those who do not do so face the harshest enforcement actions that the industry has ever seen  related to the proper management of hazardous waste.

There are many reasons why patients may be in possession of unused or expired medications. Side effect intolerance, dosage changes,  and expired medications are a few examples. In addition, as our population ages, more and more medications are being dispensed and, consequently, the problem of safe disposal can only grow increasingly imperative. The public must be made aware of the safe options available to help them to properly get rid of unwanted medications.

— By Yechiel (Joseph) Benari, RPh

 Yechiel (Joseph) Benari, RPh, is a full- time staff Pharmacist at a national chain drug store and the founder and President of Plain and Simple Health, an innovative Pharmacy consulting service with its primary goal that the patient and their family understandand feel comfortable with their medication regimen. He can be reached with any questions, comments or to set up a consulting appointment at Jbapharm@gmail.com or 917-600-2486

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