PharmacyChecker Blog

Helping Americans Get The Truth About Prescription Drug Savings
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Unused Medication – What Do You Do With It?’s focus is on helping consumers find safe and affordable meds online while avoiding rogue pharmacy websites. But what do people do with unused medication? Leaving unused prescription drugs in medicine cabinets at home can leave them susceptible to abuse or accidental ingestion. Unused medication includes those products that you no longer need or that are expired. Disposal methods include bringing medication to “take-back” programs in your community, safely throwing in the trash, and even flushing meds down the toilet – but there are important guidelines to ensure safety.

Medication disposal is a particularly critical issue when it comes to controlled drugs, ones susceptible to abuse, because prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. About seven million Americans abuse prescription drugs, often powerful narcotics, such as oxycodone and Adderall, almost twice the number found to abuse illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. About 70% of first time abusers get the drugs from friends or relatives, including from their medicine cabinets!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends following the disposal instructions on the label of the drug. Don’t flush your meds down the toilet except when instructed to do so. Your community will likely have drug “take-back” programs. Call your local government offices to find them. In the absence of instructions or take back programs, the FDA recommends throwing most medications away in the household trash. Mix loose medication in a sealable bag or container with an undesirable substance such as coffee grounds or litter. It’s also recommended that you remove or scratch out any information on the prescription label so that it’s unreadable.

The FDA recommends flushing narcotic pain relievers such as fentanyl patches, morphine, Demerol, Percocet, and OxyContin, among many others, as soon as they are no longer needed because of their high risk of abuse. There are environmental concerns related to flushing medication, such water contamination. However, according to the Environmental Pro¬tection Agency, scientists to date have found no evidence of adverse human health effects from pharmaceutical residues in the environment. FDA provides a complete list of medications for flushing here.

Before throwing disposing of any medication, the FDA also recommends removing the labels on pill bottles to remove any information others might use

Drug and regulatory authorities have recently stepped up options for prescription painkiller disposal to combat the addiction epidemic. In fact, a relatively new FDA rule now allows pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospitals to collect controlled substances from consumers. The DEA has launched a drug collection site database to help you find one. The public may find authorized collectors in their communities by calling the DEA Office of Diversion Control’s Registration Call Center at 1-800-882-9539

What about destroying your medication?

There are products on the market for consumers and healthcare providers for disposing of medications. We DO NOT ENDORSE them but here are a few that may meet your needs help you follow the advice noted above:

Medsaway Medication Disposal System

Pill Terminator

Disposing of your medication responsibly improves safety for you, your loved ones, and everyone else that may come into contact with it.

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