On April 30, Christiana Care staffers helped people across New Castle County clean out their medicine cabinets and get rid of over a half a ton of potentially unsafe products.
A joint partnership of Christiana Care Health System, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Delaware State Police and the Wilmington Police Department, Medication Cabinet Clean-Out Day provides an opportunity for consumers to bring in unnecessary and outdated prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, inhalers and vitamins so they can be disposed of safely.
The initiative took place throughout Pennsylvania and Delaware. New Castle County had the greatest amount collected during the day with nine sites recovering 2,788 pounds of returned drugs. The next largest collection was in Allegheny County, Pa., where 34 sites collected 2,148 pounds.
“Studies show that medications that are flushed down the drain or thrown in the trash can wind up in runoff that can harm fish and wildlife,” says Sebastian Hamilton, a pharmacist at Christiana Care. “Prescription drugs also wind up on the streets for illegal purposes.”
In recent years, more than 100 types of drug compounds have been detected in Delaware’s drinking water, including antibiotics, narcotics and steroids, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The Christiana Care event, part of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative, enables consumers to easily and conveniently dispose of drugs without having to fill out forms or provide personal information.
“No questions asked,” Hamilton says. “Just drop it in the bag.”
This year, drugs were collected at Wilmington Hospital for the first time, in addition to Christiana Hospital. The event was promoted through public announcements, flyers and posters. Christiana Care also encouraged staffers to help spread the word through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
The publicity campaign was a resounding success. When volunteers from the pharmacy arrived in the Christiana Hospital parking lot to begin collecting, a dozen cars were lined up and waiting. Within an hour, there was a large heap of lawn-and-leaf bags filled with medications. By the end of the day, there were 45 very large plastic bags weighing more than 1,300 pounds.
“Those little pills really add up,” Hamilton says.
In addition to prescription drugs, participants dropped off over-the-counter cough syrup, allergy medicines and liquid nutritional supplements. Needles and syringes were collected in a special container for sharp implements.
“We also get veterinary meds and diet shakes,” says Gene Cierniak, Christiana Care pharmacist.
A number of people who dropped off drugs said they had cleaned out the medicine cabinet of a loved one who had died and were looking for a safe way to dispose of the remaining medications. Others said they were weeding out unused prescriptions to eliminate the risk of them being taken accidentally.
“Senior citizens who are confused could wind up with the wrong dose,” Hamilton says. “It is also a good idea to get rid of prescription drugs if there are teenagers in the house who might abuse them.”
At the end of the event, medications were turned over to law enforcement authorities for incineration.