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Robert Moser: Dispose of medication properly

  • Published Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Storing unwanted or expired medications in the home poses a significant health risk to Kansas families. Our children can be injured or even die from accidental ingestion.

State reporting shows 1 in 5 poisoning-related emergency department visits in Kansas are among children 4 and younger. Within this age group, about 70 percent of poisoning visits were caused by drug exposure.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment collaborated with the Kansas Board of Pharmacy and state legislators to launch the Kansas Medication Disposal Program in April 2012. Before then, Kansans had no year-round method for safely and conveniently ridding their homes of uncontrolled medications. At the end of the day, the disposal program didn’t require legislation.

In the first year of this voluntary medication disposal program, 57 pharmacies and about a dozen household hazardous waste facilities statewide have enrolled as collection centers for the disposal of uncontrolled medications generated by households, long-term care facilities and hospice care facilities. The KDHE Bureau of Waste Management website has a map to help individuals and long-term care facilities identify the closest drop-off location.

While law enforcement hosts drug-take-back events annually to help people dispose of narcotics and other controlled substances, the Kansas Medication Disposal Program operates year-round to take in only uncontrolled prescription and over-the-counter medications. (Controlled medication is prescribed to manage pain, anxiety and attention-deficit disorder, while uncontrolled meds are prescribed for health conditions such as high blood pressure, bacterial infections and diabetes.)

It’s too early to draw any conclusions on the impact the program has had on reducing the rate of injury and death due to unintentional drug poisoning, but we know that we’re making a positive impact. Additionally, we’re protecting the environment from unwanted medications that might be discarded through a household drain. When medications are inappropriately dumped, it presents risks to the environment, because medications generally bypass wastewater treatment facilities.

KDHE and the Board of Pharmacy look forward to seeing more pharmacies and household hazardous waste facilities participate as community collection centers for uncontrolled medications. The program has collected and properly disposed of thousands of pounds of medication in the first year.

More information about the Kansas Medication Disposal Program can be found online at http://www.kdheks.gov/waste/about_medwaste.html.

Robert Moser is secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and state health officer.

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