Proper disposal of leftover medication necessary to avoid abuse, resistance

January 3, 2020

Children are particularly vulnerable to the misuse of addiction-forming drugs besides being poisoned, but pharmacies have yet to dispense medication correctly to consumers. This was made known from the findings of a US telephone survey conducted by researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) who, in early 2018, posed as parents of children under prescription medication and made calls to about 900 Californian pharmacies. They subsequently found that most did not provide clear disposal instructions for leftover medication while only 10% of the pharmacies followed the US Food and Drug’s (FDA) preferred recommendation to take back unused medications. The “parents” enquired about an antibiotic and a liquid pain reliever containing an opioid compound – improper use of antibiotics could contribute to antibiotic resistance and opioids, in the wrong hands, very easily cause addiction.

Hillary Copp, an associate professor of urology at UCSF, said that the FDA had specific instructions on how to dispose of leftover medications, which is followed by the American Pharmacists Association (AphA). Yet, just 47% of the California pharmacies gave correct instructions for antibiotic disposal and only 34% gave correct instructions for opioid disposal.

As people tend to look to a pharmacy for advice on how to dispose of unused medication, Copp suggests“managing leftover medications be addressed urgently from multiple angles.”

Copp further said that improving disposal practices would require better physician/patient education and expanded disposal programmes so that patients have a place to take unused medication. In this regard, physicians at UCSF are working to uniformly incorporate disposal instructions into the information that patients receive when they are discharged.

For the rest of us, orderly disposal of antibiotics would mean mixing them with an unpalatable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter, and disposing them in a sealed container to keep from getting into the water supply or being inadvertently ingested. Since opioids can be intentionally abused, even after being thrown away, it is best flushed down a toilet.

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Category: Education, Features

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