Returning old meds helps keep homes safe

April 27, 2019

Doctors and pharmacists are encouraging customers to rid their homes of leftover and expired medication today, which is designated National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Returning unused prescriptions is “one of the best ways you can ensure that your medications are not accidentally or intentionally taken by someone else,” said Phil Caruso, a Walgreens spokesman based in Chicago.

Walgreens has installed about 1,300 safe medication disposal kiosks nationwide, including three in Fort Wayne at 6202 W. Jefferson Blvd., 6201 Stellhorn Road and 10412 Coldwater Road.

The kiosks, which are accessible every day, are also located in Huntington and Angola Walgreens stores.

Amy Jennings, Meijer’s regional pharmacist for the area including Fort Wayne, said getting unused drugs out of people’s medicine cabinets is important.

Each of Meijer’s 241 superstores accepts prescription and over-the-counter medications every day at in-store kiosks.

“You don’t have to talk to anybody,” she said. “It’s self-serve.”

Local, state and national officials have launched a war on addictive painkillers, but they aren’t the only items sought in this annual awareness campaign.

“It’s any of your medications, not just opioids,” Jennings said, adding that many drugs can be harmful if they are expired or fall into the wrong hands.

“Some people just keep accumulating and accumulating” leftover drugs, she said.

Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County’s health commissioner, applauds the annual effort to take back drugs.

“National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a great opportunity to go through not only your medicine chest but also your elderly parents’,” she said in a statement. “It is important to remove meds that you are no longer taking or that have expired : especially opiates, as they can be source of temptation for young people who may want to try them or may have an addiction issue not yet diagnosed.”

“While there are permanent sites you can use to safely dispose of medications year round, this day offers a good reminder to sort through medications and dispose of them : kind of like spring cleaning for the medicine chest,” she added.

Dr. Patrice Harris, the American Medical Association’s president-elect, said physicians should talk to patients about weeding out unnecessary prescription drugs.

“All of us have a role in preventing drug addiction and overdose,” Harris said in a statement.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has reported that more than 900,000 pounds of drugs were turned in last year at 5,839 collection sites.

In the first two months after launching a Consumer Drug Take-Back Program, Meijer stores have collected more than 8,000 pounds of “unwanted and potentially hazardous medications.”

Walgreens stores have collected more than 1.2 million pounds of discarded medications in the past three years, Caruso said.

He encouraged anyone who can’t attend today’s special events to take unneeded drugs back to a store that collects them year round.

Anyone interested in finding the closest collection site can go to Google for the information, AMA officials said.

“From our studies of the opioid epidemic, we know that more than 70% of people misusing opioids are getting them from family and friends,” said Harris, who chairs the AMA’s Opioid Task Force. “This is extremely dangerous and contributes to opioid-related overdose deaths in communities across the country.”