NCPA Initiative Targets Unsafe Drug Disposal

In honor of Earth Week (April 17-24), the National Community Pharmacists Association is initiating a program to help pharmacists help patients safely discard unused and expired medications.

Most people wouldn't think twice before clearing their refrigerators of spoiled milk or moldy food in a bout of rigorous spring cleaning. Yet unused medications—which pose far greater health and environmental risks than last week’s leftovers—continue to collect dust behind bathroom mirrors and in the backs of cabinets long after their expiration dates have passed.

To address the issue, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is partnering with Sharps Compliance to offer incentives for pharmacists who implement community-wide drug disposal programs.

As part of the initiative, NCPA members will receive a 20% discount and free shipping on the Sharps TAKEAWAY Environmental Return System. Participating pharmacies can either collect unused medications in 10- to 20-gallon containers or distribute prepaid envelopes to patients. The NCPA is also providing free access to promotional materials pharmacists can use to publicize the programs within their communities.

Drug disposal is a growing problem in the United States, where federal guidelines specifying how and where medicines can be safely discarded are numerous and conflicting. According to Jeff D. Prescott, PharmD, RPh, Pharmacy Times’ director of scientific content, patients who flush drugs or add them to household trash can contribute significantly to the documented presence of pharmaceuticals in the nation’s water supply.

Although these methods are appropriate for some medicines, Prescott says take-back programs, such as those advocated by the NCPA-Sharps partnership, should be the primary means of disposal when possible.

Before implementing any pharmacy-based take-back program, pharmacists must familiarize themselves with their state’s regulations to ensure compliance. Any medications that are considered controlled substances cannot be accepted, and pharmacists should monitor collection boxes closely.

For a free 1.5-credit primer on drug disposal that includes a comprehensive overview of federal guidelines on the topic, pharmacists should visit the Pharmacy Times CE section. To find out more about the NCPA’s Prescription Disposal Program, visit the NCPA Web site.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Pharmacists Key in Treatment of Hypertension

Survey Highlights Shifting Face of Pharmacy

Pharmacy Advocates Deliver Change

Health Care Reform: Pharmacy Perspectives