Walgreen Co. has begun selling special envelopes to help consumers dispose of medications that they no longer need.

Walgreens, drug disposal program, expired prescription drugs, Sharps Compliance, expired drugs, drug stores, medication disposal, Richard Ashworth, Drug Enforcement Administration, Take Back Day, unused medications, take-back program, pharmaceuticals, drug disposal bill, NACDS, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Steve Anderson, community pharmacy

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Drug disposal plan launched by Walgreens

October 25th, 2010

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. has begun selling special envelopes to help consumers dispose of medications that they no longer need.

Walgreens says the drug disposal program, which began earlier this month at its pharmacies across the country, is the first of its kind in the United States.

Consumers can buy disposal envelopes for $2.99 apiece. Postage is included in the price.
They can then put unused or expired prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs in the envelope and mail them directly to a medical incinerator facility where they are received by law enforcement officials and burned.

A Walgreens spokeswoman points out that the ashes from the burned drugs are used to make building materials and do not go to a landfill, which prevents the drugs from leaching into local water supplies.

Sharps Compliance Corp., the company that operates the incinerator facilities where Walgreens is sending its patients’ unused and expired drugs, estimates that more than 200 million pounds of medications are improperly disposed of every year.

Walgreens executives say that because the chain’s drug stores are so close to so many people they are ideal sites for helping curtail the medication disposal problem.

“In thousands of communities Walgreens serves as the most accessible source of everyday health information,” vice president of pharmacy operations Richard Ashworth says. “That makes us a natural choice for guidance on anything involving medications, including proper disposal. Through this program we can do our part to keep expired or unused medications out of waterways and out of the hands of those who could be accidentally harmed.”

The rollout of the Walgreens program coincided with a nationwide effort by the federal government to help consumers properly get rid of prescription drugs and O-T-C medications.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Take Back Day in late September gave patients the chance to turn in unused medications at about 4,100 sites around the country.

Medication disposal has become a prominent issue in recent years as municipal water supplies from coast to coast have been found to contain minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals. Investigators say that many of these drugs had been flushed down the toilet by patients or workers at hospitals and at long-term care facilities.

Last month the Senate passed legislation that had cleared the House to foster collaboration between pharmacies, consumers and law enforcement for the safe disposal of unused drugs, including controlled substances. The drug disposal bill was later signed into law by President Obama.

The measure has been praised by community pharmacy advocates because it does not force drug stores to develop take-back programs.

“NACDS appreciates the members of Congress who demonstrated a commitment to addressing the issue of drug disposal in a way that will not create new problems for public health and safety,’’ states Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

In particular, Anderson cited the efforts of such legislators as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Reps. Jay Inslee (D., Wash.), Bart Stupak (D., Mich.), Joe Barton (R., Texas) and Lamar Smith (R., Texas).