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Overview

This Fast Facts provides members with information to safely dispose of unwanted or expired prescription medications.

Background

Medicine plays an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but it  should be used as directed and properly disposed of when treatment ends. Cleaning out your medicine cabinet is a good idea for a number of reasons.  A cabinet full of unused medications can increase the chance of taking the wrong one, taking expired medicine or having medication end up in the wrong hands. Unused portions of these medicines must be disposed of properly to avoid harm to wildlife, pets and people.

In the past, we were told to flush unused drugs or put them in the trash. Both of these strategies have potential downsides. Flushed medications can pass largely untouched through sewage treatment plants. Meanwhile, medications in the garbage can come into contact with children or animals, and once in landfills, have the potential to leach into groundwater.

What Can You Do to Ensure Safe Drug Disposal? 

Typically, medication is labeled with specific disposal instructions, so it important to read the labels on the bottle.  If it is not labeled, here are some steps you can take to safely dispose of unwanted and expired medication:

  1. Ask if your pharmacist can take back medication.  Many pharmacies participate in prescription drug disposal programs.
  2. Investigate if there are nearby state or local disposal programs like those mentioned below.
  3. If you need to put your medications in the trash, follow these tips:
    • Keep the medications in the original childproof and watertight containers.
    • Leave the label on, but remove all identifying information to protect privacy.
    • Add some water to pills and put some flour in liquids.  You can also add material to the trash bag such askitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds or any material that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to eat.
    • Conceal the vials by putting them in empty containers or paper bags before throwing them out.

Above all, do not give medications to friends or family members. Medication is not interchangeable. Doctors prescribe drugs based on a person’s specific symptoms and medical history. For more information about disposal, please read the NJDEP Guidelines for Proper Disposal of Household Medications by clicking here.

Project Medicine Drop

With the abuse of prescription drugs posing a serious health threat to many people in our state, New Jersey officials kicked off  Project Medicine Drop (NJPMD) to demonstrate how individuals can properly dispose of drugs.  Led by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the program enables individuals to dispose of medications anonymously, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Prescription drop boxes are located within participating police departments. The drop boxes are indoors in a secure location within view of law enforcement officers. The police department will then take custody of the discarded drugs and dispose of them, according “to their normal procedures for the custody and destruction of controlled dangerous substances.”

Additional Resources

New Jersey’s Project Medicine Drop – New Jersey’s Project Medicine Drop (NJPMD), has secured drop boxes in the headquarters of local police departments. Consumers from anywhere in New Jersey can visit the boxes seven days a week, to drop off unneeded and expired medications. Contact the police departments or call the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at 800-242-5846 for more information. Please click here to view drop box locations.

DisposeMyMeds.org – DisposeMyMeds.org is an online resource to help you find medication disposal programs at an independent community pharmacy in your neighborhood. Please click here to find a medication disposal location near you.

The American Medicine Chest Challenge – This site contains an interactive map that allows you to easily find the prescription drug drop off location nearest to you. Please click here to access the map.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration – How to Dispose of Unused Medicines  – The FDA worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop the first consumer guidance for proper disposal of prescription drugs.

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day  – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) periodically hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events where collection sites are set up in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs.  Click here to locate a national collection site near you.

For More Information

If you need additional information, please contact NJBIA’s Member Action Center at 1-800-499-4419, ext. 3 or member411@njbia.org.

 

This information should not be construed as constituting specific legal advice. It is intended to provide general information about this subject and general compliance strategies. For specific legal advice, NJBIA strongly recommends members consult with their attorney.