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April 19, 2012
TOPEKA The number of people treated at Kansas hospitals for unintentional drug poisoning has increased 150 percent since 2000, according to the state’s top health official, and too often those people have been children.
Now, working with pharmacists, state health officials have launched a program to help households dispose of unneeded or unwanted prescription drugs instead of keeping them around where someone might swallow them.
The new program will allow people to return unused drugs that are not controlled substances to participating pharmacies.
“Storing unwanted or expired medications in the home poses a significant health risk to Kansas families. Children can be injured or even die from accidental ingestion,” said KDHE Secretary Dr. Robert Moser. “This medication disposal program is a collaborative effort in providing a way for Kansans to safely and conveniently get rid of uncontrolled medications.”
State regulations had to be tweaked before the program could be launched.
Until recently, unused prescription drugs were classified as hazardous waste, which meant legal disposal of drugs was difficult. One undesired result was that the drugs often were flushed down the toilet, creating problems for the municipal treatment plants that clean the water.
Now, the drugs essentially have been reclassified as regular household waste, which makes it easier for the pharmacies to accept the old drugs.
For now, according to a new page on the KDHE website, there are only about 10 household waste disposal sites in the state and no participating pharmacies. But officials say they expect the map to fill up in the weeks and months to come.
“I believe you’ll see a significant uptake” by pharmacies, said Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican and pharmacist. “It won’t take long for that to happen.”
A pharmacist must accept the drugs and place them in a secure container.
“It will not be self-serve,” said Bill Bider, director of KDHE’s Bureau of Waste Management.
Participating pharmacies will be responsible for disposing of the drugs, either by sending them to medical waste companies for incineration or to landfills authorized by KDHE to accept them.
The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Find more about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 783-2529.