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What to Do with Unused Medicine

Do you know what to do with unused medicine?

Every so often someone contacts me, wondering what to do with unused medicine. Selling it is illegal. So how do we dispose of it?

The FDA provides guidelines about legal and proper disposal of unused medications. They discuss three options:

  1. Medicine take back programs – DisposeMyMeds.org
  2. Tossing medicine in the trash
  3. Flushing drugs down the toilet

Medication disposal programs are the best option as these services have the advantage of being environmentally-conscious and properly enforced. The other two options are what I call “if all else fails” options and should only be undertaken following the FDA recommendations.

Most of us would feel better knowing that our medications are going to other people, and in some cases, they can. Some medication disposal programs, medical facilities and pharmacies are sending unused drugs to Sirum, which redistributes unused medications to those in need. Individuals cannot donate their medications directly, but in some states, pharmacies can take back medication and donate it to Sirum. An excellent op-ed written by David Bornstein titled, Recycling Unused Medicines to Save Money and Lives appeared in the New York Times (March 20, 2015).

More states are enacting drug-recycling programs in order to deal with the increases in drug costs. Each state has its own laws governing prescription donation. Visit the National Conference for State Legislatures for more information about this.

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