We have put forth the following policy recommendations intended to meaningfully address this issue and inform policy proposals at the state and federal levels:
For more information and a comprehensive overview of these policies, please see PhRMA’s Reducing Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse policies document.
It’s vital to dispose of medications properly in order to protect our environment and to keep medications away from drug abusers or curious children and pets. Medications should never be poured down the sink or flushed down the toilet, except for a few medications identified as appropriate for flushing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For many, “in-home” disposal is the easiest option to safely dispose of unused or expired medication.
Home disposal recommends unwanted medicines (not sharps) be removed from containers, placed in a sealed plastic bag or container and discarded with normal household trash. To the extent that children or pets are present in the household, consumers may wish to mix coffee grounds, cat litter or other unpalatable home waste in with the unused medicines before sealing the mixture in a plastic bag and discarding it with normal household waste.
PhRMA also supports the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Take-Back Day. This program provides sites for patients to drop off unneeded prescription medications, which are then destroyed by local law enforcement officials.
The disposal mechanism for medical sharps is different. A “sharp” is a medical device with sharp points designed to puncture skin. Examples include needles, syringes and lancets. Needles and other sharps should never be placed in trash cans or recycling bins or flushed down the toilet. Improper disposal of sharps puts sanitation workers, housekeepers and family members at risk of injury. The best way to dispose of sharps is to place them in a disposal container immediately after use. Disposal containers should be made of leak-resistant, heavy-duty plastic. The container should close with a puncture-proof lid and should be properly labeled.
Learn more about disposing of your medical sharps via the FDA.