National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Spring Cleaning – In Your Medicine Cabinet

by Megan Keegan

Drug Take-BackTrees are blooming, the grass is greening, and its finally time to throw open the windows for a little spring cleaning!  This year, don’t just dust the corner cobwebs and air out the linens—take this opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet!

Don’t flush those expired medications! Turn them in at a take-back location on April 30.

Don’t flush those expired medications! Turn them in at a take-back location on April 30.

On Saturday, April 30, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will host another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an excellent opportunity to get rid of unwanted or expired medicines.

Why make the extra effort to drop off the meds when you could just flush them, trash them, or deal with them later?

Proper drug disposal helps protect our waterways. When we flush or trash meds they  can end up polluting our waterways, because they are sometimes difficult to remove from water using conventional water treatment methods.  As a result, trace amounts of drugs can negatively impact fish reproduction, contribute to antibiotic resistance, and even end up in our drinking water. EPA gathered data on a few select pharmaceuticals during the third round of Contaminant Candidate List monitoring. The Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership – focused on protecting the drinking water for nearly 5 million people in four states and the District of Columbia – provides outreach on proper drug disposal in the 14,670 square mile Potomac River Watershed.

It helps protect your family.  Lingering stores of unwanted or expired drugs can lead to misuse or an accidental poisoning.  According to the DEA, proper disposal of medication is an important step in battling our nation’s high rate of prescription drug abuse. Over half of teens abusing medicines get them from a family member or friend, including the home medicine cabinet, and often without their knowledge.

While there are steps you can take to safely dispose of drugs in your home, drug take-back programs are widely regarded as the first choice – the safest and most responsible way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines.  Mark your calendars now, and use the link on this DEA page to find a collection site near you!

 

About the author: Meg Keegan works with diverse drinking water partnerships in the Source Water Protection program. She likes to do lunchtime runs on the Schuylkill river trail.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Prescription for a Healthier Environment

By Dustin Renwick

Many different colored pillsNext time you’re waiting at the doctor’s office, consider how what is prescribed there could also contribute to the health of the environment.

Christian Daughton, an EPA research scientist, does just that by looking at the connection between the examination room and the expansive beauty of the outdoors in his research paper, Lower-dose prescribing: Minimizing “side effects” of pharmaceuticals on society and the environment.

The paper is a result of his Pathfinder Innovation Project that explores the idea of considering the environment and the patient as one entity.

When someone ingests a drug, not all of it is absorbed. The human body excretes parts of that medication, including active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that often end up in the sewers and eventually disperse into the environment.

The most common methods for reducing APIs in nature is by treating wastewater (remediation) and organizing take-back programs, where people in a community drop off unused medications for proper disposal. For example, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day occurred in late October.

“My interest has long been on solving the upstream problem – minimizing the generation of waste rather than its more costly remediation,” Daughton says. “That aspect has long been discounted.”

Daughton is now directing his attention to identifying and reducing inefficiencies of pharmaceuticals in health care: how they are prescribed, dispensed, and ultimately used by the patients.

His research points to two major changes that could positively affect the types and quantities of APIs that infiltrate aquatic ecosystems.

First, doctors can focus on doses. Based on patient needs, physicians can prescribe lower doses of pharmaceuticals to prevent leftover drugs as well as decrease the excreted amounts. The strategy could keep the environment cleaner, reduce costs for patients and improve therapeutic outcomes.

“The idea isn’t to benefit environment at the expense of possibly jeopardizing the patient,” Daughton says. ”It’s a win-win for environment and health care.”

A second aspect of Daughton’s research involves tracking reliable data about which APIs are extensively metabolized by the body and which are excreted unchanged.

Imagine two similar drugs. The one that the human body thoroughly processes has what’s called an “environmentally favorable excretion profile,” and that drug is likely to do less damage to the local creek.

Unfortunately, that information isn’t easy to find.

“Excretion data submitted for regulatory approval purposes isn’t sufficiently comprehensive for examining the potential for environmental impact,” Daughton says. In other words, drug companies don’t need to scrutinize an API beyond what is relevant for human safety.

“That becomes a major stumbling block” to discovering which APIs could have negative environmental impacts.

As the topic of health care moves to the forefront of national discussions, Daughton’s work points to the environment as one missing component in those conversations.

“That’s where I get this expression – treating the environment and the patient as an interconnected whole.”

About the author: Dustin Renwick works as part of the innovation team in the EPA Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.