Research: Patient Practices and Beliefs Concerning Disposal of Medications

Clear guidance for how patients should dispose of unused and expired medications is lacking. Medications improperly disposed of can make their way into groundwater, surface water, and even drinking water. Incineration is the best disposal option currently available for waste medications. Although a few pharmacies will facilitate proper disposal of unused and expired medications, the majority will not. Methods: A total of 301 patients at an outpatient pharmacy completed a survey about medication disposal practices and beliefs. Results: More than half of the patients surveyed reported storing unused and expired medications in their homes, and more than half had flushed them down a toilet. Only 22.9% reported returning medication to a pharmacy for disposal. Less than 20% had ever been given advice about medication disposal by a health care provider. Previous counseling was highly associated with returning medications to a pharmacy (45.8% vs 17.1%, P < .001) and was the variable most associated with returning medications to a provider (28.8% vs 10.0%, P < .001). Previously counseled respondents were significantly more likely to believe that returning medications to a pharmacy (91.5% vs 60.3%, P < .001) or a medical provider (74.6% vs 47.3%, P < .001) was acceptable. Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that there is a role for patient education about proper disposal of unused and expired medications.
http://www.jabfm.org/content/19/6/542.full.pdf+html