New Campaign Stresses Correct Drug Disposal

Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) have signed a formal agreement outlining how they will work cooperatively to build consumer awareness of the hazards posed by the improper disposal of unused and expired medications into the nation's waterways.

The "SMARxT DISPOSAL" campaign was announced at APhA's annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Medications that are flushed down the toilet or thrown straight into the garbage can and do find their way into our nation's waterways every day. Those drugs are present in water that supports many species of fish and other wildlife," said H. Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We are concerned about reports of fish abnormalities possibly caused by improperly disposed prescription medications. That's why we are excited about this new partnership with the Association and its ability to educate the public about simple things they can do to clean up our waters and help prevent fish, and people, from inadvertent exposure to prescription medication."

"Medications play a vital role in our society," added Dr. John A. Gans, executive vice president and CEO of APhA. "Consumers -- and pharmacists -- should be aware that it is important to take that extra step to protect our families and our natural resources, including our many waterways, fish and other aquatic organisms."

The consumer outreach campaign will feature educational brochures and a website with information for both consumers and medical professionals. Promotional events will be held in several cities. The initiative will begin with a pilot program in selected U.S. markets later this year and expanded in 2008.

The team says just three small steps can make a huge difference:
1. Do not flush unused medications. While this is the rule of thumb, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that certain medications should be flushed due to their abuse potential. Read the instructions on your medication and talk to your pharmacist.

2. When tossing unused medications, crush solid medications or dissolve solid and liquid medicines in water and mix with kitty litter, sawdust, or any material that absorbs the dissolved medication and makes it less appealing to eat, then place in a sealed plastic bag before tossing in the trash.

For your safety, remember to remove and destroy all identifying personal information (prescription label) from the medication container.

Check for approved state and local collection programs or with area hazardous waste facilities. In certain states, you may be able to take your unused medications to your community pharmacy.

3. Talk To Your Pharmacist. He or she is available to guide you on how to properly dispose of your unused medications.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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