Pharmaceutical Take-back programs makes disposal safe and easy

Over 250 million pounds of unused dispensed medications are disposed of improperly every year

Approximately four billion prescriptions are dispensed outside of a hospital setting every year. The sheer volume increases when you figure in over-the-counter medications, supplements and pet medications.

A variety of pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, steroids and other toxic substances can now be found in the majority of our groundwater streams and in the drinking water of more than 40 million Americans. More than 250 million pounds of unused dispensed medications are disposed of improperly each year, says David Tusa, President and CEO of Sharps Compliance Inc.

Sharps, a leading medical waste management company, has created a nationwide, easy-access solution to capture the enormous volume of unused medications, used syringes and medical waste generated outside of hospital and large healthcare settings.

Sharps created their TakeAway Environmental Return System, a pharmaceutical take-back program that allows consumers to mail back or drop off unused medications for safe disposal.

This system consists of specially designed envelopes patients can purchase and use in privacy of their home, then mail back via the Post Office for proper disposal at a Sharps disposal facility.

Sharps' TakeAway Environmental Return System lets customers drop off or mail back their unused medications and supplements

A number of independent pharmacies are also participating in this program. Pharmacists will take unused medications and place them in the designated Sharps box behind the counter, which will also be mailed back for safe disposal.

To date, Sharps has collected over 100,000 pounds of unused medication that they’ve diverted from the water stream and the landfills.

The problem of unused medications is huge, said Tusa – an estimated 50 million in the U.S.

Sharps is the only company in the country that lets you send used medications in the mail and puts these boxes behind the counter.

“Too many of these medications are getting flushed away or thrown out each year,” Tusa said.

“Besides environmental issues,” he said, “it’s important to get those medications out of medicine cabinets so you don’t have accidental overdoses.”

The majority of our groundwater and drinking water in the U.S. contains pharmaceuticals that were improperly disposed of

A report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that prescription and over-the-counter medications account for eight of the 14 most frequently abused drugs by high school seniors.

“Accidental poisoning is the leading causes of death by teenagers, only second behind car accidents,” Tusa said.

Over 70 percent of people who abuse these drugs get them from a friend or relative, said Wendy Millis, Community Educator with Shasta County (California) Public Health. “It’s important to keep them secure,” she said, “and get rid of them as soon as they can.”

“People can drop off their unneeded or unused prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medications,” Millis said.  This is one of the biggest ways you can reduce the risk of somebody getting hold of them and using them, and having them disposed of instead of flushing them down the toilet, she said.

With every household having its share of unused medications hidden away in cabinets, consumers can choose where and how they want to dispose of them.

Across the country, Winn Dixie, Kroger, Walgreens and Rite-Aid stores all participate in the Sharps Take-Away program.

“Since we launched the Safe Medication Disposal Program last September, Walgreens customers have helped keep more than 15,000 pounds of unused or expired medications out of landfills,” said Walgreens spokesperson Vivika Vergara.

You can drop off unused medications at any participating independent pharmacy

The independent pharmacies and the larger ones like Walgreens are using the TakeAway program as a way to improve their relationships with patients, said Tusa.

If you’re more comfortable taking your unused medications to a pharmacy, find one of the independent pharmacies listed on Sharps’ website.

You don’t even have to have your prescription there to take back the unused medications there.

“It’s an opportunity to interact with the pharmacist and hopefully have a better experience as a result,” said Tusa.

Whether you want to drop off your unused medications or mail them in, remember that properly disposing of them protects our water supply, the environment and your loved ones. It’s the safe thing to do.

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