More Pharmacies Launching Drug Disposal Programs as Earth Day Nears


By Kevin Schweers

Patients are increasingly demanding safe, environmentally friendly ways to dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs, while local pharmacies are always looking to do some good and reach new potential customers. That dynamic is leading more local pharmacies to choose to offer patients convenient drug disposal options.

With Earth Week (April 17-24) approaching, interest is growing and participation is up in programs like the prescription drug disposal partnership that NCPA and Sharps Compliance launched March 2nd. [Community pharmacies get a discount of almost 20% plus free shipping on the Sharps TAKEAWAY Environmental Return System™.]

Patients appreciate the opportunity to keep unused medicine out of the local water supply and out of the grasp of small children or pets. Pharmacists, of course, do too, and “going green” can also be good for foot traffic in the pharmacy, as well as building community support.

West Virginia’s Colony Drug has made its program a community success. They’re planning another push during Earth Week. You can read other examples in a prior blog post or by clicking here and here.

Iowa’s experience speaks to the benefits to patients and pharmacies of drug disposal programs. On Nov. 2, 2009, a statewide drug disposal program commenced involving 300+ community pharmacies.

“We were always getting questions from patients about how do you dispose of medicines, and with increasing news coverage of the issue, they expressed concerns about possible groundwater contamination, and wanted help in doing the right thing,” says John Forbes of Des Moines’ Medicap Pharmacy.

“I’ve seen new people walk in who have never been to our pharmacy, maybe as many as 30 percent of the people returning medicines for disposal,” he added.  “It presents an opportunity to acquaint them with who we are and what we do.”

Pharmacists should be sure to consult their state’s board of pharmacy before launching a program because policies vary from state to state.

Under the Sharps program, participating pharmacies can either collect unused medicines in 10 or 20 gallon collection boxes in a secure location within the pharmacy or offer patients postage pre-paid envelopes. 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.

Pharmacies across the country are signing up. Last week, 110+ pharmacies joined a NCPA member conference call to learn more about the program. Registration is already looking strong for the next call, March 25th. More information is available on NCPA’s members only site (click on the “Prescription Drug Disposal” link) or by contacting Valerie Briggs of NCPA.

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