Medication Disposal Rules Change

Published on 09 October 2014

It will soon be much easier for Americans to safely dispose of unwanted medications.  Starting today, new rules from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) go into effect allowing participating pharmacies, certain hospitals, and long-term care facilities to collect medication for proper disposal.

“Patients already trust their pharmacist and visit them on a regular basis,” says Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. “With these new rules, pharmacies have the opportunity to play an even larger role in the health and well-being of their community.”

Americans spend nearly $1,100 per person on prescription and over-the-counter medications every year, and much of it is left in cabinets, drawers, or forgotten. Some of those medications can be the target for thieves. Police say a vast majority of heroin and other narcotics abusers start their addictive behavior with prescription pain medication.

“Medication abuse often starts with theft from the homes of family and friends,” Tiemeier says. “Unfortunately, those medications act as a gateway to illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine. Removing unwanted medications from your home helps protect not only your family, but the entire community.”

Tiemeier advises patients to check with their pharmacist to see if they will be participating in the disposal efforts. It may take several months for pharmacies to be able to take back medication. Until then, the best way to dispose of medication is at an already established permanent disposal site. To find one, go to

“We should all look at our medications,” Tiemeier says. “If they’re no longer needed, expired, or could be stolen, take them to a participating pharmacy or utilize one of the many permanent disposal sites. Don’t leave medication sitting at home. It can weaken over time, lose effectiveness, and prevent you from reaching your health goals."

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