Apr 26, 2011

United Water and NCPA Launch Partnership for Safe Disposal of Unused Medication

Initiative aims to keep pharmaceuticals out of water supply

United Water and the National Community Pharmacists Assn. (NCPA) announced a partnership to encourage people throughout the United States to properly dispose of their unused or expired medications in an environmentally friendly manner. A major part of the campaign will center on the NCPA’s website dedicated to the program, www.DisposeMyMeds.org, which directs people to their local independent pharmacy where they can drop off their unused medications.

United Water has embarked on the effort as a preemptive measure aimed at enhancing the quality of drinking water sources. Each year, Americans fill more than four billion prescriptions. As much as one third of that medication, though, will never be used, generating about 200 million lb of pharmaceutical waste. Some of that finds its way to the rivers, lakes and streams that make up the nation’s water supplies.

“Some trace levels of pharmaceutical compounds have been detected in waterways throughout the world,” said Brent Fewell, vice president of environmental compliance at United Water. “With no technology available today to effectively remove prescription drugs from water, proper disposal is currently our only remedy.” In addition to the DisposeMyMeds.org program, Fewell noted that United Water also is spearheading leading-edge research initiatives aimed at removing compounds from the water.

“The presence of pharmaceuticals in the nation’s water should come as no surprise,” said Robert Greenwood, president of the NCPA. “Prescription medications, as well over-the-counter drugs, enter the environment in two ways. They are excreted by the human body or they are discarded. The old recommended method of getting rid of many medications had been to flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain.”

Greenwood explained that the conventional wisdom was to dispose of medicines by flushing them down toilets, rather than disposing of them in trash, to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. “Now we realize the potential impact of some pharmaceutical compounds in our waterways and the new emphasis on an environmentally safer means of disposal,” he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set forth guidelines on disposal of drugs that are not specifically labeled for flushing. The EPA encourages the public to take advantage of drug take-back programs and outlines how residents in communities without such facilities can safely dispose of pharmaceuticals.