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Disposing of Unused Pet Medications

Disposing of Unused Pet Medications

by Dr. Carla Case-... on Mon, 07/30/2012 - 9:41am


Submitted by Lisa A. Yackel, CVPM, PHR

Hospital Administrator at Case Veterinary Hospital


Several times a month we have clients who bring unused medications back to the hospital.  Some clients would like to have a refund because their pet has passed away or is no longer using the medication. Some simply want to donate the medicines to help others out financially.  With both situations, we are regulated by what we can do legally and what we feel is the safest for our patients. 


If a medication has not been used and the seal has not been broken, we will gladly refund the money previously spent on the medication if it was purchased from us and has not expired.  The items will be returned to our pharmacy and resold to another client.  However, If the seal on the bottle or tube has been broken,  we cannot return the medication to our shelf and therefore cannot give a refund back to the client. 


This last scenario frequently progresses further by the client asking if they can donate the medication in question.  While this is certainly a wonderful gesture, it is one that we cannot honor.  Once a medication leaves our hospital and is opened, we cannot guarantee to the next user the safety of the product.  It may have been stored improperly or mixed with a previous prescription that might have a different expiration date. And, although we would like to think that it never happens, the medication could also be tampered with.  When you buy a medication from any pharmacy, you want the assurance that the medication has been properly handled and is safe.  We cannot give that assurance to our clients if we recycle a medication.        


We occasionally have clients bring by unused or expired medications for us to dispose of.  The Drug Enforcement Administration regulates how we dispose of the medications just as it does the end consumer.  This places a burden on our hospital to legally safely dispose of the drugs. 


So what can one do to rid themselves of these medications when they are no longer needed?  


The federal government has guidelines for throwing out prescription drugs as well as over the counter drugs.  These guidelines also help curb drug abuse, accidental overdose, and protect U.S. water sources. 


·         Remove drugs from original container. By removing unwanted, unused, or expired medicine from its original container, you are ensuring that medicine will not fall in the wrong hands. Orange prescription bottles are easily recognizable and can be stolen from garbage cans and landfills. 

  • Mix drugs with undesirable refuse and throw in garbage. Guidelines suggest mixing medications with items like used coffee grinds or cat litter and placing them in a sealed bag, empty can, or jar. Throw container in trash can. This extra step can prevent accidental overdose by children and pets and also possible drug theft.
  • Do not flush old prescription drugs down the toilet. Unless otherwise stated on the label or in the drug information pamphlet given to you by your pharmacist or veterinarian, do not flush unwanted prescription medication down the toilet.  There are some drugs such as powerful narcotic pain relievers and other controlled substances that  do carry instructions for flushing to reduce the danger of unintentional use or overdose as well as illegal abuse.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently researching how prescription drugs affect U.S. waterways. 
  • Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your city or county government's household trash and recycling service. To see if a take-back program is available in your community. The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, often sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and that information is posted on the radio and local news venues.  
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