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NCPA promotes safe drug disposal
March 9th, 2011
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – For Patient Safety Awareness Week, the National Community Pharmacists Association is encouraging patients to properly dispose of expired or unwanted medications at a community pharmacy as part of its Dispose My Meds program.
NCPA said Wednesday that during Patient Safety Awareness Week, which runs March 6 to 12, it's urging consumers to visit the Dispose My Meds web site to find participating pharmacies by city, state, or ZIP code for assistance in disposing of unused prescription medications (excluding controlled substances) and over-the-counter drugs.
Disposal can occur either by sending the medicines in a postage-paid envelope or at an on-site program where the pharmaceuticals are collected and disposed of properly using the Sharps Compliance TakeAway Environmental Return System.
To date, more than 1,200 community pharmacies participate in the Dispose My Meds program nationwide, with the help of Sharps Compliance Inc., and have helped patients safely dispose of more than 25,000 pounds of unused or expired medications, according to NCPA.
"Pharmacists can help patients monitor what medications are taken, how they interact with other drugs, how effective they are and what side effects they might cause as a way to ensure maximum results," stated Robert Greenwood, president of NCPA. "During Patient Safety Awareness Week and anytime, we encourage patients to talk to their community pharmacists about medication safety and how to dispose of medications properly when they go unused or expire."
The association noted that in a recent NCPA survey, the Dispose My Meds program got kudos from nearly all patients, many of whom had kept unwanted medications in their homes for years, even decades, while seeking a place for safe disposal.
"I have been trying to find a place for 5 years to discard prescription meds. My mom's doctors are always changing her dosages for her prescriptions, which leaves me with a stockpile of medications that need to be discarded," a Boston patient in the survey commented. "It has been said for years not to flush them down the toilet, so we've been saving them until we could find a way to discard them safely. Last year, I got so frustrated that I threw all her old medications in the trash that is picked up by the city. I thought I had no other choices; I threw out about 300 to 475 pills. It was frustrating because it,s a waste of money and horrible for the environment. I,m glad I can do something about it now."
NCPA reported that over 4 billion prescriptions are written annually in the United States and up to 40% of drugs dispensed outside of hospitals aren't taken, generating 200 million pounds of unused pharmaceuticals each year. Unused medications are a contributor to accidental poisonings and deaths, which are up 80% over a recent six-year period.
"Sharps Compliance is thrilled to be partnering with the NCPA and its membership to address the problem that pharmacists, patients and communities face with unused patient medication," Claude Dance, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sharps Compliance, said in a statement. "It also gives patients and pharmacists' proactive adherence and counseling opportunities to ensure patients are taking the meds as prescribed by their physician as well as a way to safely discard their unused medications and keep our communities safer."