Pharmacies Launch Safe Disposal Initiative for Unused Medicine

Nearly 800 community pharmacies in 40 states are making it easier for consumers to safely dispose of unused patient medications at their local pharmacy, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and Sharps Compliance, Inc. announced on April 19.

A new Web site,, allows consumers to search for a participating pharmacy disposal program by city, state, or ZIPp code. Some exclusions apply. NCPA is encouraging other community pharmacies to voluntarily sign up for the program in coming weeks and months as part of an ongoing effort.

The pharmacies are kicking off the “Dispose My Meds” campaign in conjunction with the 40th annual Earth Week. At participating pharmacies, consumers may be able to dispose of unused medications with postage-paid envelopes or participate in onsite programs where pharmaceuticals are collected and disposed of properly.

It is estimated that more than 4 billion prescriptions are written annually in the United States and up to 40 percent of drugs dispensed outside of hospitals aren’t taken, generating some 200 million pounds of unused pharmaceuticals each year. Unused patient medications are a contributor to accidental poisonings, which have involved an 80 percent increase in U.S. deaths from accidental overdose of narcotics in a recent six-year period. Studies 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 whether regulations are needed.

“Safe and practical disposal programs make a real difference in addressing this growing public health concern," said Joseph H. Harmison, PD, NCPA president and 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 builds on the success of the work of the Iowa Pharmacy Association to enroll 300+ pharmacies in the state in a drug disposal program launched in November 2009. Many pharmacies are using the products of TakeAway Environmental Return System, via a recent partnership between NCPA and Sharps Compliance Inc.

NCPA members get nearly a 20 percent discount plus free shipping on the Sharps TAKEAWAY Environmental Return System™. Participating pharmacies can either offer their patients postage pre-paid envelopes or collect unused medicines in 10- or 20-gallon collection boxes in a secure location within the pharmacy. Once the envelope is used or the box is full it should be returned immediately via the US Postal Service or UPS, respectively, for disposal. In addition to the discount, participating pharmacies get free access to customizable flyers, counter cards, bag stuffers, and posters to promote their take back programs.

“The voluntary effort by community pharmacies through the Dispose My Medicines program is an important step in educating the public on the need to safely and environmentally process pharmaceutical waste,” said Nate Byer, director of Earth Day 2010. “The National Community Pharmacists Association is setting an important precedent as it becomes ever more evident that private sector businesses and organizations must help drive such initiatives aimed at improving our national community health and address the challenge of safe disposal and recovery of potentially hazardous waste.”

Sponsors making the program possible include Astra Zeneca, Apotex Corp., Covidien, King Pharmaceuticals, the Community Pharmacy Foundation, and the Cardinal Health Foundation.

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