Pharmacies Move Toward Going Green--April 2009

April 9, 2009
Eileen Koutnik-Fotopoulos

The nationwide initiative to reduce pharmaceutical waste decreases the risk of accidental poisonings from accumulated medications in households, contaminated drinking water, and drug diversion.

The Teleosis Institute is taking its green pharmacy program nationwide with the recent release of its Green Pharmacy Toolkit.

The Berkeley, California—based company’s pilot program has collected >5000 lb of consumer pharmaceutical waste in the San Francisco area. Joel Kreisberg, executive director of the company, said the purpose is to provide pharmacies with the tools and training to create their own take-back programs.

“[People] don’t really know what they should or can do,” he said. “There is a medication disposal system already available if you know how to use it.” The company’s initial plan is to expand from 15 to 50 pharmacy take-back programs by the end of the year and to collect 100,000 lb of unused drugs.

“The biggest issue we found is money, not ideology,” said Kreisberg. “I haven’t talked with anyone in the pharmacy who is not supportive of the idea of safely destroying unneeded medications. What they’re saying is that I can’t afford to be the one paying for it.”

Funding is available, however. California’s Marin County Health Department is using waste-disposal fees to cover the cost of medication and sharps take-back and disposal programs in local pharmacies. In the Midwest, the Environmental Protection Agency is backing a program with Schucks, a 60-store grocery/pharmacy chain.

Expired aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most frequent products that end up in the take-back programs. Consumers can reduce waste by cutting back on NSAID purchases. For example, the households that purchase a 500-count bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen but throw away half of the bottle when it expires waste money.

“Helping patients buy the right amount of medication…is even more effective in greening pharmacy than creating a take-back program,” he explained. “High-volume users such as prescribers, hospitals, and long-term care facilities can adjust inventory and prescribing practices. When physicians order 1 mL, and the hospital pharmacy stocks 5-mL single-use vials, drug waste results.”

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For more information about Teleosis Institute’s toolkit, visit www.teleosis.org

For other articles in this issue, see:

Patients Turn to Pharmacists for OTC Recommendations

NY Judge Blasts FDA on Plan B Restrictions but Idaho Bill Could Limit Access

Pharmacists in Diabetes Ten City Challenge Critical to Success