In a recent news story that our Maryland Medication Error Attorneys have been following, state legislators across the country have proposed bills that are aiming for the disposal of unused or expired medicine at nursing homes, for resident health and safety and the protection of the environment
According to ABC News, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, and Washington have all proposed new legislation that is trying to address the issue of dealing with excess and expired prescription medicine from nursing homes that end up in landfills and water sources every year, or if accidentally accessed by residents or other people, can cause serious harm or personal injury.
The Associated Press did a study in 2009, and reported that at least 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated medication packaging are generated in medical facilities every year. Some states are working on bills that would give nursing homes a choice to donate unused medication to charities in other countries. Other states are trying to send the unused medication back to the prescription drug manufacturers, with ‘take back’ programs, returning the responsibility back to the pharmaceutical company for disposal.
When a prescription is written for a resident in a nursing home, the pills aren’t reportedly dispensed in the same way that they are in a pharmacy. When the prescription is ordered for a nursing home resident, the pharmaceutical companies allegedly ship out 30-day supply cards, with each pill nestled in a small bubble pocket so nurses can easily pop the pill out of the card. If the patient has a bad reaction to the medication, if the patient passes away, or there is a medication mistake with the prescription, the medicine is most likely thrown out.
According a nursing home in Colorado, nearly 50 percent of the medications sent to nursing homes from the pharmacy end up being disposed of. The home stated that the pharmaceutical companies do not frequently take the drugs back.
The article states that since water treatment plants all over the country don’t have a filtration system in place to clear pharmaceutical waste out of water, environmental groups are encouraging people in their homes to throw the medicine in the trash, or asking hospitals to burn the medicine. The U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) recommends mixing unused medication with something undesirable like kitty litter or coffee grounds—anything to keep the drugs away from people, animals, or children and seal the medication from dissolving into the soil and groundwater.
In the meantime, local governments seem to be working hard to come up with a solution that works to keep nursing home residents and citizens healthy and safe from the disposal expired or excess medication.
Where Should Unused Meds Go, ABC News, February 24, 2010
Related Web Resources: