Monday, June 15, 2009

Unused Prescription Medications

Updated 3/2017-- photos and all links (except to my own posts) removed as many no longer active. and it was easier than checking each one. 

As regular readers of my blog know recently my family lost my mother (May) and my sister lost her husband (March).  Both times we were left with many unused prescription drugs at their respective homes.  What do you do with these?  What do you do with ones you or a family member have left when switched to another drug?

This topic was also brought up on twitter recently by  lesmorgan.
  • Handling a family request to donate dialysis meds after a death. Is it correct that Kaiser pharmacy has no post-death return policy?
  • @rlbates thanks for the comment. that's the usual answer, but some institutional systems do have giveback programs, unsure on Kaiser.
  • DHSS FAQ on medication donations in Missouri. Regulations vary by state.
  • California law on recycling meds after SB 798
  • California medical waste disposal location finder. Handy!
  • @striving4more My understanding is that laws vary by state, I'm updating my own FAQ on the issue now.
  • @striving4more Best general advice is to ask the pharmacy that dispensed the meds to advise on prevailing law, which also varies by med.
I tried to take my brother-in-law’s to the pharmacist downstairs in the building my office is in.  They were not allowed to take them for recycling.  Their advise to me and to others who ask was to empty the pills into a plastic bags with cat litter, then throw that bag into your regular trash.  I did the bag/cat litter thing, but put my into my “medical waste” trash at the office.  I don’t like the thought of those drugs ending up in my drinking water, but I also find the waste sad.  I wish there were a way to donate them to charity clinics legally.  It’s much easier to donate or “recycle” the unused prescription drugs when someone dies in a nursing home or hospice.  It’s almost impossible if the drugs have made it into someone’s home cabinets.  Most states are similar to California and make no recommendations on the ones that I wanted to donate or recycle (the ones at the departed’s home).
California Senate Bill 798, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in September 2005, authorizes a county to establish a program to collect unused prescription medications from nursing homes, wholesalers, and manufacturers and redistribute them to low-income, uninsured people. (A copy of the law is attached. )

Here is a post I did early in my blogging days, May 2007 – Unused Medicines.

As I have begun to find more ways to recycle and conserve waste in my home and office, I have found that it is no longer acceptable to “flush medication” down the drain. I was taught in medical school (graduated in 1982) to educate patients to dispose of out-of-date medications (old Tylenol, aspirin, cough syrups, etc) and unused prescription (either couldn’t take them due to side effects or failed to take all of the antibiotics or HBP medication was switched) by flushing them down the toilet. That is no longer a good idea. But the information out there is not clear as to the new guidelines.
I found that the Senior Care Service website still tells our elderly and their care givers to flush the out-of-date or unused medication. I found little help at my own state’s Cooperative Extension Agency’s website on medication disposal, but it is very helpful for other household chemicals.
The two best sites I found were the American Pharmacy Association and the White House Drug Policy. Both of these give clear instructions [ Federal Guidelines ]


Michael Guzzo said...

Here's a free handout (pdf) for your patients from the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists about medication disposal.

Michael Guzzo said...

Oops.. here's the link:

How To Dispose of Your Old Prescription Medicine

Lululemon athletica said...

its really sad to listen that you lose your mother its such a great loss of the family my sympathy is with you it think fitness can put away the person from use drugs or diseases.

Dave said...

Here (in Israel) the Health Funds have started a "dump your unwanted medicines in the special bin in our clinics". In addition, sometimes a pharmacist and/or doctor run a system of distributing excess drugs (after checking expiry date, intact packaging etc.) to needy patients (again after checking that they have a prescription etc.)- even a small saving can be important to the unemployed etc.. I'm not sure whether this is 100% legal, but it should be - with proper safeguards. This is often done in the framework of an orthodox Jewish charity fund.