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Study: Trash Old, Unused Drugs

Medication 'Take-Back' Programs Ill Conceived, Researchers Say

Dangerous Drugs Should Be Flushed continued...

Of special concern are powerful narcotics delivered by patch, such as the drug fentanyl.

"Even after a patch is used, a lot of the drug remains in the patch, so you wouldn't want to throw something in the trash that contains a powerful and potentially dangerous narcotic that could harm others," FDA senior program manager Jim Hunter, RPh, noted on the agency's web site.

A complete list of the drugs recommended for flushing by FDA can be found on the agency's web site in the consumer section entitled "How to Dispose of Unused Medicines."

Drug Disposal Safety Questions Remain

While environmental concerns remain about the impact of flushing any drugs, the FDA notes that there is as yet no solid evidence linking flushing to specific risks in humans.

And scientists with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have not yet found evidence of adverse effects on human health associated with drug residues in the environment.

Skerlos says that since more than half of people in the U.S. already throw their unused drugs in the trash, asking them to take part in drug take-back programs could have significant downsides, including increased inconvenience, longer drug storage in the home, and higher costs to society.

Skerlos and colleagues estimate that a nationwide drug take-back program would cost $2 billion a year.

They write that re-evaluation of drug disposal options may become necessary as our understanding of the environmental impact of these options increases.

The study appears online in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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