Published on 17 May 2016
More unwanted medication than ever before was turned in across St. Louis during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. On April 30, more than 50 disposal sites were set up across St. Louis to accept any prescription and over-the-counter medication. During the four-hour collection window, and despite steady rain, residents turned in 27,470 pounds of medication (that’s equivalent to nine Toyota Prius cars). The previous record was 22,231 pounds collected in September, 2015. The Take-Back Day, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with assistance in the region by St. Louis College of Pharmacy, is in its sixth year.
“It is gratifying to see so many people understand the importance of safely disposing of unused medication,” said Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., BCPS, director of community partnerships and associate professor of pharmacy practice. “The medication stays out of the wrong hands, and is destroyed in a way that is best for the environment.”
This year, a special focus was placed on encouraging patients to turn in unused opioid prescriptions.
“We know patients often have extra pain medications after surgery or short-term illnesses,” Tiemeier said. “These medications are often stolen or given away. When misused, they are the gateway to heroin abuse.”
In the days leading up to the public disposal event, Tiemeier, student pharmacists at the College, the DEA, and the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging went door-to-door in senior housing facilities in the city of St. Louis to make special collections. That effort netted more than 100 pounds of medication.
“The medication regimens of older adults can change frequently,” Tiemeier said. “Removing old medication reduces the risk of patients becoming confused. Older adults can also be targeted by those looking for opioids.”
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative is held on one day in the spring and fall. However, medication disposal is a year-round effort. There are more than three dozen permanent disposal boxes across St. Louis which are available at all times.
“Recent headlines about opioids and heroin have raised the awareness on how to properly store and dispose of prescription medication,” Tiemeier said. “We all can help our families and neighbors by remaining vigilant and properly removing these medications from our houses when no longer necessary.”