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by Tom Wilemon | Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, 9:37 AM
Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) recently began offering patients an option for safely disposing expired and unwanted medicines — a service made possible by a change in state law.
New Medsafe collection boxes are now located inside pharmacies at Medical Center East, The Vanderbilt Clinic and Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.
Clinical staff cannot accept medicines directly, but they are encouraged to inform patients about the new collection locations.
It’s a service patients have sought for years, said Andrea Bryant, Pharm.D., MBA, MHA, program director of controlled substance and inventory integrity for the Department of Pharmaceutical Services.
“Until this legislation changed, a pharmacy was not allowed to take medicine back,” Bryant said. “People would come to our pharmacies with a bag of medicine that was no longer needed and ask us to dispose of it, but we weren’t allowed to accept it.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration changed one of its rules in 2014 and expanded the types of facilities that could collect unused prescription drugs to include retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies. Last year, the Tennessee legislature followed suit when it passed the “Ensuring Patient Access to Pharmacy Drug Disposal Programs Act.”
Gov. Bill Haslam, who has made increasing drug disposal outlets one of the strategies for the “Prescription for Success” campaign to combat opioid addiction, signed the bill. It went into effect July 1, 2015.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has an interactive map posted on its website to aid people looking for medicine disposal locations.
Metro Nashville has set up collection boxes that are available at police headquarters and eight police precincts.
Pharmacies have the option to voluntarily participate in the medicine take-back initiative. The Medsafe boxes at the three pharmacies are intended for VUMC patients and their families.
“If we provide patients the opportunity to dispose of medications properly, there will be less opportunity for prescription drug abuse.” Bryant said. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that 60 to 70 percent of prescription drug abuse starts with medications obtained from family and friends — it is often what is in the medicine cabinet at home.”
Expired medicines, which may no longer be effective, can also pose risks for patients, she said.
Over-the-counter medications as well as prescription medications are accepted for drop off into VUMC Medsafe boxes. So are pet medications.
Liquid medications are accepted as long as they are in leak-proof containers.
Items not accepted in the VUMC Medsafe boxes include illicit drugs, hazardous materials, needles and other sharp objects, IV bags and infectious wastes.
Tom Wilemon, (615) 322-4747
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