Let’s say you, or a family member, or even a beloved pet has been taking medication, but now you’re finished.
What’s the right thing to do with the unused drugs?
You already know they shouldn’t be flushed down the drain or toilet where they enter the water supply, nor should they be thrown into the trash where they will find their way into landfills, ultimately contaminating the soil and harming wildlife. The worst-case scenario of leftover drugs is they fall into the hands of humans who misuse them, abuse them, or who, by taking them, could even die.
Oregon recently became the sixth state to sign into law the requirement drug manufacturers pay for and run statewide drug take-back programs.
The law, signed by Governor Kate Brown and championed by Representative Sheri Schouten, ensures every community in Oregon have free, convenient, access to safe drug disposal. The law goes into effect this month and programs must be operational by July 1, 2021.
Seaside Providence Hospital has been taking back unused and partially used medication for three years.
Which puts them far ahead of the state mandate.
“Our retail pharmacy at Providence Seaside Hospital began a drug take back program in 2016,” said Mike Antrim, Senior Communication Manager with Providence. “This is a service Providence has provided to the community free of charge. Anyone can come in and dispose of unwanted medications. The police station is the other Seaside location for drug take back. Using drug take-back sites reduces drug waste in our rivers and landfills. It also allows people to dispose of unwanted medication to help with the rising opioid epidemic.”
Julie Owens, pharmacy manager at Seaside Providence Hospital, oversees the packing up and mailing of the 40-pound packages of unwanted drugs that are sent via UPS to Trilogy Medwaste, a full service regulated waste management company located in in Gastonia, North Carolina. Since 2016 she’s sent 11 of these packages. A considerable amount of research went into selecting this company, she said. “They provide proof of incineration.” Packing up the medical drop box is labor intensive and time consuming as it is a legal requirement two pharmacy employees are present to witness the packages being passed off to UPS.
One might wonder if at least some unused medication could be repurposed, i.e. given to someone who can’t afford it. Some states, for example, allow for unused veterinary medication to be returned to the prescribing veterinarian’s office to be administered pro bono to animal patients who have no owners, or whose owners can’t afford their pet’s meds.
“The reason drugs can’t be repurposed is because many are temperature and humidity sensitive and there’s no way to know how they’ve been stored,” Owens said. “Also there’s no way to know if they’ve been tampered with.”
The Seaside Providence Hospital drop box is located inside the retail pharmacy. Pharmacy hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
“This is a community service,” said Alana Kujala, Seaside Hospital’s Community Partnerships Liaison. “By having two locations in the city, we can stay on top of it.”
The medical waste drop box is impossible to miss. It’s a powder coated steel receptacle with a one-way medicine drop and locking drop door. To prevent tampering or theft, the door is triple locked, and the receptacle itself is securely fastened to a structure that is permanent. The box meets DEA requirements and is made in the USA.
Similar drug collection receptacles can be throughout the north coast. In addition to the one in the lobby of the Seaside police station, other receptacles are located at the Warrenton police station, the Astoria police department, the Cannon Beach police department, and Columbia Memorial Hospital.
“I’m proud of this program,” Julie Owens said.