Retail News Breaks
Walgreens starts safe medication disposal program
September 30th, 2010
DEERFIELD, Ill. – An initiative launched by Walgreen Co. will let customers safely dispose of unused or expired medications, a program that the drug store chain calls the first in the nation.
Walgreens said Thursday that under its Safe Medication Disposal Program, customers can buy a specially designed envelope for $2.99 at its pharmacies that allows them to place, seal and mail prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications they no longer use for safe, environmentally friendly disposal. Postage is included in the cost of the envelope, which then can be dropped into any U.S. Postal Service mailbox for delivery to an approved medication incinerator.
At the medication disposal site, a licensed law enforcement official is on hand as part of a quality control system to ensure no envelope is tampered with or opened, according to Walgreens. Envelopes remain sealed while incinerated, and the ashes can be used for making "green" building materials instead of going into a landfill, the company said. Controlled substances are excluded from the program due to current regulations.
Walgreens said it's offering the medication disposal service in tandem with Sharps Compliance Corp., a leading provider of management solutions for medical waste and unused dispensed medications. The company estimates that more than 200 million pounds of unused dispensed medications are disposed of improperly each year.
"In thousands of communities, Walgreens serves as the most accessible source of everyday health information. That makes us a natural choice for guidance on anything involving medications, including proper disposal," Richard Ashworth, vice president of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, said in a statement. "Through this program, we can do our part to keep expired or unused medications out of waterways and out of the hands of those who could be accidentally harmed."
Walgreens reported that a recent Associated Press investigation, which discovered trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supply of 24 major metropolitan areas, has highlighted the need for proper medication disposal.
The drug chain added that it also hopes to drive awareness of its new Safe Medication Disposal Program as a way to address the rising concern around children accessing unused medications in the home. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription and OTC medications account for eight of the 14 most frequently abused drugs by high school seniors, Walgreens reported. The pharmacy operator said it has participated in medication take-back events through local health departments and law enforcement agencies for years, and its web site offers Food and Drug Administration guidelines on safe disposal of medications when a collection or drug take back program isn't available.
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