Experts advise adding nasty stuff to meds before disposingDon’t flush expired or unused medications down the toilet – instead, seal them in a plastic bag with an unsavory substance like kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds and throw them in the garbage, advises a news release from the American Pharmacists Association.
By: Archie Ingersoll, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON - Don’t flush expired or unused medications down the toilet – instead, seal them in a plastic bag with an unsavory substance like kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds and throw them in the garbage, advises a news release from the American Pharmacists Association.
The APhA, along with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announced a campaign earlier this week to inform people how to best dispose of medication and to underscore the environmental dangers of flushing medicines or pouring them down the drain.
For tossing medications, the news release offers these instructions:
E Crush pills and liquid capsules, or dissolve them in water.
E Put the medication in a sealable plastic bag.
E Add a substance like kitty litter that makes the medicine unappealing for children or pets to eat.
E Seal the bag and put it in the trash.
E Remove any personal information from medication containers.
There is an exception to the no-flushing rule when it comes to drugs that could be abused, according to the release.
“While the rule of thumb is not to flush, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that certain medications should be flushed due to their abuse potential,” the release states. In such cases, following the instructions on the medication and consulting a pharmacist is recommended.
As an alternative to putting medication in the garbage, the release suggests giving drugs to a state or local collection program.
However, North Dakota does not have such a program, said Christine Roob, an environmental scientist in the waste management division of the state Department of Health.
Medical waste is often incinerated, but Roob said there are no hazardous waste incinerators in the state that accept pharmaceuticals.
“Our only other option is to put it into the landfill,” Roob said.
To avoid ending up with unused prescriptions, Roob said people should follow their doctor’s orders when prescribed medication.
“The best thing for a citizen to do is to use the drug per their doctor’s prescription,” Roob said.
Bonnie Thom, a pharmacist in Velva, who serves on the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, said there’s no harm in asking pharmacists if they will dispose of drugs.
“We can take it back, but we would destroy them” using the same methods recommended in the news release, Thom said.
Thom said federal regulations prohibit her from redistributing unused or expired medications she takes back from a customer.
“I, by law, can’t take it back and put it in my stock,” Thom said.
Medications that have not been opened can be given to the state’s prescription drug repository program. Established last year, the program collects unopened medications so that pharmacists and physicians can dispense them to patients who need them, said Deb Knuth, the government relations director for the American Cancer Society in North Dakota. The group lobbied for the creation of the program and remains a partner in it, Knuth said.
“It’s not just cancer drugs. They’ve opened it up to heart disease, diabetes – any medication that’s out there,” Knuth said.
In Dickinson, Greene Drug, White Drug and ND Pharmacy Inc. take part in the repository program, according to the state pharmacy board’s Web site.