US National prescription drug take-back day

On many previous occasions, the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum has reported occasional take-back schemes for unwanted prescription drugs operating across local or regional communities. These prove very successful, as cheap and easy to manage, and collect substantial quantities of drug waste that would find its way down the toilet or into black bag refuse, or cluttering the bathroom cabinet as a potential reservoir for accidental poisoning.

It must be a good thing to do, but who should organise these collections and why have we never managed to do this in the UK? Local Authorities working together with the Environment Agency are best placed to manage this. Funding will always be a problem, and is probably why so far nothing has happened, but wityh teh Environment Agency bleating of concern about the presumed, and probably hugely overstated, environmental impact of pharmecutical residues in segregated wastes and empty syringes, realignment of their efforts to this more significant waste stream will benefit individuals and communities and make a substantial contribution to environmental protection.

It is refreshing to note that in the US, local schemes are again to be supplemented with a National prescription drug take-back day.

With a substantial array of publicity resources freely available, there is no excuse why UK authorities should not give this a go. Local trials might provide a learning curve to iron out and unforeseen problems, though it can’t be difficult. The involvement of the waste management sector, and of the medical and pharmaceutical professional bodies such as the Royal college of GPs and Pharmaceutical Societies, and the PCTs will share the cost and allow a parallel impetus to lean prescribing that will help avoid the over-prescribing that contributes dramatically to the amounts of unused and unwanted medicines stockpiled in the home.

All it needs is a bit of effort, at least to talk about this and get the ball rolling. The value is obvious and unquestionable, with the potential to collect many tonnes of unwanted medicines – theer no reason to exclude non-POMs – protecting the environment and achieving the safe disposal that EA are constantly talking about. But while the continue to talk in ex-Cathdra fashion, they sit on their hands in the pious expectation that others will do their bidding. It’s time to take a lead.


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