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DESTRUCTION OF UNWANTED MEDICATIONS
1. What are my options for disposing of unwanted medications?
Many community-based drug “take-back” programs offer the best option. A small number of medicines may be especially harmful if taken by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed. Many of these medicines have specific disposal instructions on their labeling or patient information leaflet. CLICK HERE for a list of medications recommended by the FDA for disposal by flushing and more information concerning medication destruction.
2. Are there guidelines in place for proper disposal of unwanted medications?
The following guidelines were developed to encourage the proper disposal of medicines and help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse after they are no longer needed.
• Follow any specific disposal instructions on the prescription drug labeling or patient information that accompanies the medicine. Do not flush medicines down the sink or toilet unless FDA safe disposal of medicine states you can.
• Take advantage of programs that allow the public to take unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your local law enforcement agencies take back or contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to learn about medicine disposal options and guidelines for their area.
3. What if there are no medicine take-back programs in my area?
If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:
- Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag;
- Throw the container in your household trash;
- Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, and then dispose of the container
MEDICATION SAFETY: SHARPS AND SHARPS CONTAINERS
1. What safety precautions should I be aware of when using sharps?
Sharps is a medical term for devices with sharp points or edges that can puncture or cut skin. They may be used at home, at work, and while traveling to manage the medical conditions of people or their pets, including allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, infertility, migraines, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, blood clotting disorders, and psoriasis.
- Needles: hollow needles used to inject drugs under the skin
- Syringes: devices used to inject medication into or withdraw fluid from the body
- Lancets/ “fingerstick” devices: instruments with a short, two-edged blade used to get drops of blood for testing
- Auto Injectors: syringes pre-filled with fluid medication designed to be self-injected into the body (ex: epinephrine and insulin pens)
- Infusion sets: tubing systems with a needle used to deliver drugs to the body.
Used sharps should be immediately placed in a sharps disposal container. FDA-cleared sharps containers are generally available through pharmacies, medical supply companies, health care providers, and online. These containers are made of puncture-resistant plastic with leak-resistant sides and bottom. They also have a tight fitting, puncture-resistant lid.
If an FDA-cleared container is not available, a heavy-duty plastic household container, such as a laundry detergent container, can be used as an alternative.
2. What precautions should I take when disposing of sharps?
Never place loose needles and other sharps in the household or public trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet. This puts trash and sewage workers, janitors, housekeepers, household members, and children at risk of being harmed. Pet owners who use needles to give medicine to their pets should follow the same sharps disposal guidelines used for humans.
3. What should I do if I am accidentally stuck by a used needle or other sharp?
If you are accidentally stuck by another person’s used needle or other sharp:
- Wash the exposed area right away with water and soap or use a skin disinfectant (antiseptic) such as rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.
- Seek immediate medical attention by calling your physician or local hospital.
- Follow these same instructions if you get blood or other bodily fluids in your eyes, nose, mouth, or on your skin.
4. Where can I find more information on safety measures with sharps?
Below are links to FDA information regarding safety measures when using various sharp instruments:
Safely Using Sharps (Needles and Syringes) at Home, at Work and on Travel
Have you seen the FDA & ISMP’s medication safety videos? Watch them here!
Click here for ISMP Safety lists which are updated regularly!
- Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
- AHRQ Patient Safety Network
- FDA MedWatch