The Susquehanna Heartland Coalition and Geisinger Health System Make Medication Disposal Safer and Easier

In the past, someone with leftover medications had few choices for disposal. Flush it and harm water quality? Throw it in the trash and affect the environment that way? Wait a year until someone has a drug take-back program? There has to be a better way!

That’s what the Susquehanna Heartland Coalition and Geisinger Health System thought, and they worked together to place medicine take-back boxes in drugstores and supermarkets throughout central and northeast Pennsylvania, including Danville, Dallas, Muncy, Montoursville, Jersey Shore, and Williamsport.

John R. Jones, RPh, vice president of Enterprise Pharmacy for Geisinger Health System, said leftover medicines can, “lead to accidental poisonings in children and to addiction and overdoses in teens and adults. It’s wise to dispose of medications you and your loved ones aren’t using anymore.”

The boxes accept prescription and over-the-counter pills, capsules, liquid medicines, creams, ointments, vitamins, and even pet medicines. This effort is the first hospital-sponsored program in Pennsylvania to accept controlled substances, such as codeine, oxycodone, and morphine, as well. The boxes are bolted to the floor and secure. Law enforcement agencies in the community empty the boxes and work with the National Guard to transport the drugs to an incinerator for safe disposal.

Dr. Eric Wright, PharmD, MPH, co-director of the Center for Pharmacy Innovation and Outcomes at Geisinger, said “Our goal is for people in central and northeast Pennsylvania to be able to dispose of unneeded medicines within a 10-minute drive from their home, whether it’s at a pharmacy, supermarket, or police station.”

Researchers from Geisinger and Bucknell University estimate that PA medication take-back programs saved 28 lives in 2015 by preventing overdoses. Nearly 80% of heroin users begin by abusing prescription drugs, so the fewer unwanted opioids that are out there, the better.

This article was summarized from one in Geisinger Magazine, which can be found here.


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