Free kits make proper drug disposal easy
Often after a family member dies, customers come to Simply Pharmacy or another local drug store to ask one of the pharmacists what to do with all their loved ones’ unused prescription medications.
“A lot of people never throw stuff out,” Lisa Bragaw, clinical pharmacist at the Waterford store, said Thursday, describing medicine cabinets full of decades-old prescription vials.
She and other local pharmacists have long been advising customers to bring the unused pills to medication drop boxes at local police departments. Or, they would hand them an instruction sheet describing steps for self-disposal: mix the unused portion with water or, if it’s a liquid, kitty litter, salt, coffee grounds, flour, charcoal or a powdered spice. The container should then be sealed with duct tape, placed inside a non-transparent bag and thrown in the trash.
“We tell people one of the most important things is not to flush medication down the toilet,” said Phani Daggubati, pharmacy manager at Fort Hill Pharmacy in Groton. “And that they shouldn’t just keep it, because it can be easily abused.”
Now, Daggubati, Bragaw and other pharmacists around the state have a new tool to help ensure that medications are disposed of properly. On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that 80,000 drug deactivation kits had been distributed free of charge to 600 pharmacies around the state, including Fort Hill and Simply Pharmacy, as well as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Stop & Shop, ShopRite and Big Y stores.
The kits, in purple pouches about the size of a small tablet computer, were donated by the British-based company Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and are now being given out for free to customers at the participating pharmacies.
“Absolutely this is a good thing,” said Marghie Giuliano, executive vice president of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association. “It certainly raises awareness about the safe disposal of medications, and provides pharmacists with a new tool.”
For years, she said, pharmacists have been telling customers not to flush drugs down the toilet, because municipal sewage treatment systems aren’t equipped to remove these substances from the waste stream, meaning residues end up being discharged into rivers and streams.
In the past few years, though, with the worsening opioid crisis, proper drug disposal has taken on a new urgency. Getting unused drugs out of the house prevents them from being stolen and misused. Excess prescription opioids are “known to contribute to misuse, abuse and addiction,” according to a news release from Malloy.
“These kits will allow Connecticut residents to safely dispose of these drugs at home without contaminating water sources or harming the environment,” the release said.
Each kit can dispose of up to 45 pills or six ounces of liquid. The medications are placed inside the pouch, which contains charcoal. It is then filled halfway with warm water, and allowed to sit for 30 seconds. After that, it should be shaken gently and disposed of in the trash.
“It’s very important to get drugs off the street, but also not to get it in the water supply,” Bragaw said. “This is small, and easy to use, and it’s free.”
Simply Pharmacy has received about 250 of the packets, and Fort Hill Pharmacy has received about 65. Both say they’ve already given some away.
Giuliano said the kits will be especially helpful for senior citizens, who may have difficulty bringing medications to a police department drop box or following the steps for proper self-disposal.
“It can be a challenge for the elderly,” she said.
For locations of medication drop boxes, visit http://bit.ly/2hkNmNw.
Any Connecticut pharmacy that has not received kits or would like to request additional ones should contact the state Department of Consumer Protection’s Drug Control Division at email@example.com or (860) 713-6065.