Published On: Thu, Apr 18th, 2013

Cherokee Pharmacy urges safe disposal of unused medicines

Is your medicine cabinet filled with expired medications?  Have your prescriptions recently changed, leaving you unsure what do to with unused medicines?  Or perhaps the death of a family member has left you with a large number of prescription medications needing disposal. 

Prescription Bottle - blank labelUnused medications left in the home pose potential risk to people and the environment.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, accidental exposure to medicine is a major source of unintended poisoning in the United States.  Accidental exposures to prescription medications may occur when medications no longer used by the intended recipient are left in the home.  Other family members, children, or pets could get into medications unintentionally.  Some medications may be harmful to a child or pet with a single dose.

Medicine disposal by flushing has led to trace levels of medicines in drinking water supplies and medication residue in water treatment facilities. The FDA no longer routinely recommends flushing unused or unwanted prescription medications as the primary means for disposal.  Unfortunately, pharmacies cannot take prescription medication back from a patient once it has left the pharmacy, even for disposal. 

However, in 2009, the FDA, developed recommendations for disposing of unused medications.  Following these guidelines can help create a safer home environment for you and your family, as well as, protect our natural resources and water supply.

The FDA recommends the following:

  • Follow any specific drug disposal instructions on the drug label.
  • Do not flush any medications unless the drug label specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Mix unused medications with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds, kitty litter, or red pepper flakes.  This will make the medication less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
  • Scratch out all identifying information on the prescription bottle before throwing it away.

Community members can also contact the Cherokee Indian Hospital (CIH) Pharmacy Department with questions regarding medication disposal. 

“As a pharmacist, I’m glad the FDA has provided better guidance for patients on how to safely dispose of unwanted and unused medications in the home,” says  Abigail White, a pharmacist at CIH adding,  “prescription drugs can be especially dangerous when taken by someone for whom they are not intended.”

In an effort to reduce the potential harm unused medications pose to communities and assist community members in disposing of unused medications, the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA has established National Drug Take-Back Days.

The National Drug Take-Back Day will give the community an opportunity to clean out their medicine cabinets and help prevent unintended exposure 

Saturday, April 27 from 10am – 2pm has been declared a National Drug Take-Back Day. The DEA and local law enforcement agencies team up to provide safe, convenient ways for community members to dispose of unused medications. 

Bring any unused medications to the Cherokee Police Department, 468 Sequoyah Trail, on April 27, 2013 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for safe disposal.  Or call the Cherokee Police Department 497-7405 for additional details.

– Cherokee Indian Hospital Pharmacy

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