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Calgary pilot program aims to ensure safe disposal of prescription drugs


Prescription Drop-off DayThe need for prescription drugs come with the risk the unused or expired pills will not be disposed of properly.

That is why the University of Calgary and Calgary Co-op partnered to launch a pilot program on Thursday to help ensure the drugs don’t wind up in the province’s landfills and water system.

People with partially-full pill bottles can now make use of Medi-Bins that have been installed at six Calgary Co-op pharmacies.

Leland Jackson, a biology professor at the University of Calgary, said when prescription drugs are disposed of in an unsafe manner, they can cause harm to the environment.

The goal of the program is to boost awareness surrounding the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association ENVIRx Program, and to monitor participation rates.

“Most people don’t know the ENVIRx program exists,” said Jackson. “By promoting it in this way, we hope more people will use the program and drop off their medication so it can be disposed of properly.”

Jackson added prescription drugs also pose a threat when left in the home, because children may come across them or the medication may end up on the street.

“Researchers will compare the amount of medication that comes in over the summer and fall with previous amounts collected by the ENVIRx Program and use the demographics of the areas where the dropoff bins are located to develop strategies to motivate better participation,” say the organizers.

Similar preventative measures have also been implemented in the United Kingdom with pharmacies urging people to not order more than is needed to reduce the amount of unused drugs.

In addition, the site advises to bring leftover medicine to a pharmacy, and to never use the toilet as a way of disposal.

In the United States, the FDA website lists safe methods such as removing the expired and unused medicine from the home as soon as possible, so others won’t accidentally ingest or intentionally misuse it. The article says take-back programs are another option, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration hosts events with collection sites nationwide. The U.S. also makes use of mail-back programs and drop-boxes.

The six Calgary Co-op drop-off locations include: Richmond Road, Monterey, Rocky Ridge, Macleod Trail in Calgary, Sierra Springs in Airdrie, and Montrose in High River. Organizer says more could be added in the future.

“Medi-Bin promotes safer and healthier communities by giving our members the ability to safely dispose of their unused and expired medications at their convenience anytime during centre hours and not just pharmacy hours,” says Sonal Ejner, pharmacy professional services manager.

The Calgary Co-op advises Medi-Bins are equipped to take solid forms of medication, and for the drugs to be removed from packing and placed in Ziploc bags.

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