Mary Elizabeth Elliott: Pilot project to make medication disposal safer, more effective

Prescription drug misuse has been identified as Florida’s “fastest-growing and deadliest public safety issue,” according to Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Prescription Drug Diversion and Abuse Roadmap. Prescription painkiller overdoses have more than tripled in the past two decades, killing more than 15,500 people in the United States in 2009 according to the CDC.

On Saturday, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals launch a pilot project in Hillsborough, Collier, and Seminole counties to aid in the safe and effective disposal of prescription medications.

Prescription drugs and other medicines that are no longer needed often remain in medicine cabinets or other locations in the home. In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

Such wide access and availability has contributed to our nation’s overdose crisis.  The proper disposal of unused and expired medications is something every American should know about. Unfortunately, the public information is confusing and sometimes contradictory.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a list of medications recommended to be flushed. However, our state partners at Florida Rural Water Association tell us that drugs disposed by flushing enter the environment, and may cause harm to fish and other aquatic life.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration advises that if you cannot get to an approved drug take-back site, an individual should dispose of medicines in their own trash, mixing pills with kitty litter or used coffee grounds and sealing them in a bag.

So there are definitely differing views, even at a government level. One thing we can all agree upon: We must expand options to help guide people to proper disposal of their pharmaceutical controlled substances.

To explore solutions, CADCA will begin working with local coalitions on a pilot grounded in research. That approach – which we call a “Community of Practice” – pairs local coalition leaders with CADCA experts to assess and enhance the coalition’s existing strategic work in prescription drug abuse prevention. CADCA will work to identify current practices in safe use, storage and disposal of medications, and to learn more about what influences an individual’s behavior in those areas. With that information, we will share best practices that can be replicated in other communities.

Thanks to a donation from Mallinckrodt, local coalitions will disseminate 40,000 home medication deactivation disposal pouches, a product that uses a patented technology to chemically neutralize prescription drugs and make them safe for disposal. In addition, the bio-degradable material is environmentally friendly.

CADCA hopes the tool will do more than just dispose of unwanted and potentially dangerous medicines. We want it to spark a community conversation about the safety of our medicines and the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. By connecting Florida drug prevention coalitions with a unique disposal option, we hope to gain to new insight and save lives.

Mary Elizabeth Elliott is vice president of communications, membership and IT at Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).

Guest Author



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