Properly Disposing of Medications
It happens to everyone - you're moving or cleaning the house and discover an incredible amount of unused medicine. What do you do? Unfortunately, for the most part, individuals cannot donate medicines, even those that are unopened. Some nursing homes may be able to use unopened blister packs or equipment but you probably need to throw the leftover medicines away, painful as it is knowing how much they cost. It is illegal to give people medicine that has not been prescribed for them. Some state and city governments have addressed the problem with drug take-back programs and disposal sites.
The old advice was to flush them down the toilet but traces of some medicines have been found in the water supply because the drugs can pass untouched through water treatment systems. These drugs can also kill helpful bacteria in septic systems.Some state and city governments have addressed the problem with drug take-back programs and disposal sites.
Ask your pharmacist if he or she can take back the drugs or knows of a disposal site. Call your state or city government to see if there is a local program to dispose of or possibly donate unused drugs. Unused drugs can be a hazard if left in your home. More medicine bottles mean more chance of taking the wrong medicine or using an out-of-date drug. Medicine should always be stored in a dry, safe place out of the hands of small children or teens that may be tempted to experiment with pills.
Since these programs are not always available, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has issued new guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs.
This policy, issued in February 2007, urges people to do the following:
- Take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers
- Mix the prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, like used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and put them in impermeable, non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags, further ensuring that the drugs are not diverted or accidentally ingested by children or pets
- Throw these containers in the trash
- Flush prescription drugs down the toilet only if the accompanying patient information specifically instructs it is safe to do so (see list below)
- Return unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs to pharmaceutical take-back locations that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for safe disposal
The FDA advises the following drugs, and any with specific labels mentioning this, be flushed down the toilet instead of thrown in the trash:
Actiq (fentanyl citrate)
Daytrana Transdermal Patch (methylphenidate)
Duragesic Transdermal System (fentanyl)
OxyContin Tablets (oxycodone)
Avinza Capsules (morphine sulfate)
Baraclude Tablets (entecavir)
Reyataz Capsules (atazanavir sulfate)
Tequin Tablets (gatifloxacin)
Zerit for Oral Solution (stavudine)
Meperidine HCl Tablets
Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen)
Xyrem (sodium oxybate)
Fentora (fentanyl buccal tablet)