ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Nearly 800 community pharmacies in 40 states are making it easier for customers to safely dispose of unused medications at their local drug store through an initiative called "Dispose My Meds."
The National Community Pharmacists Association and Sharps Compliance Inc. on Monday unveiled a Web site, www.disposemymeds.org, that enables consumers to search for a participating pharmacy disposal program by city, state or ZIP code.
The association said it’s encouraging other community pharmacies to sign up for the program in the coming weeks and months as part of the ongoing effort.
The pharmacies are kicking off the Dispose My Meds campaign in tandem with the 40th annual Earth Week, which runs April 17 to 24. At participating pharmacies, consumers may be able to dispose of unused medications with postage-paid envelopes or participate in on-site programs where pharmaceuticals are collected and disposed of properly.
It’s estimated that more than 4 billion prescriptions are written annually in the United States and that up to 40% of drugs dispensed outside hospitals aren’t taken, generating some 200 million pounds of unused pharmaceuticals annually.
Unused patient medications also are a contributor to accidental poisonings, which have involved an 80% increase in U.S. deaths from accidental overdose of narcotics in a recent six-year period. Studies, too, have found waste pharmaceuticals in the drinking water of more than 50 million Americans, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now studying these and other contaminants to determine if regulations are needed.
"Safe and practical disposal programs make a real difference in addressing this growing public health concern," commented NCPA president Joseph Harmison, a pharmacy owner in Arlington, Texas. "I commend these pharmacies for stepping up for the good of their communities and their patients. And hopefully, consumers will gain a greater appreciation of their local community pharmacy. I also appreciate the support our allies and sponsors have shown for this effort."
The Dispose My Meds effort, which has been recognized as an official activity by the Earth Day Network, builds on the success of the work of the Iowa Pharmacy Association to enroll 300-plus pharmacies in the state in a drug disposal program launched in November 2009. Many pharmacies are using the products of TakeAway Environmental Return System through a recent partnership between NCPA and Sharps.
"We are proud to work with NCPA and its membership to more efficiently and effectively address the problem pharmacists, patients and communities face with unused patient medication," stated Claude Dance, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sharps. "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."
Sponsors of the Dispose My Meds program include AstraZeneca, Apotex, Covidien, King Pharmaceuticals, the Community Pharmacy Foundation and the Cardinal Health Foundation.
"By providing patients with a safe and easy way to dispose of unused medications, this innovative program can prevent expired or unused drugs from being mis-used or abused," remarked Dianne Radigan, director of community relations for Cardinal Health. "The Cardinal Health Foundation is proud to support NCPA in empowering community pharmacists to take an active role in helping their communities address this growing public health issue."