Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Take precautions when disposing of old medications


Ginger berrie is a pharmacist at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.


The temptation when unused prescription and over-the-counter medications clutter the medicine cabinet is to dump them down the toilet or drain and pitch the containers.

But before you do, know that there is a correct and safe way to get rid of medications that have expired or are no longer needed.

If you visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site, be forewarned that the advice is confusing. In one paragraph the FDA states: “A few drugs should be flushed down the toilet.” But a couple of paragraphs later is this statement: “Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.”

Upon closer scrutiny, consumers are urged to flush some leftover drugs that could put children or pets at risk. Ginger Berrie, staff pharmacist at Mercy St. Vincent outpatient pharmacy, said schedule two narcotics are those that are tightly controlled by the FDA.

“They have a high abuse and addiction potential and misuse,” Ms. Berrie said.

Among those that authorities say are safe to flush are OxyCotin, fentanyl, and Ritalin. While authorities and environmentalists are concerned about how medications affect the water supply they also have concluded that to reduce the risk of the narcotics getting into the hands of pets, innocent people, or those who want to profit from the illegal use of the drugs, dumping them down the toilet is preferred.

“There was a death of a toddler who got hold of a fentanyl patch. So they said there are some drugs that need to be disposed of, and flushing is the way to do that,” Ms. Berrie said, adding that flushing eliminates the risk the narcotics getting into the wrong hands, accidentally or purposely.

But what about other prescription and over-the-counter drugs?

“Those can go in the garbage. Make sure they are put in with something unpalatable or undersirable,” Ms. Berrie said.

Bryan Coehrs, director of the Pharmacy Counters in Toledo, said the eco-friendly way is to take the meds out of the bottle and to mix them with either used coffee grounds or kitty litter inside a plastic bag that closes tightly.

“Those are the two substrates outlined by the FDA. They are undesirable substances and kids and pets won’t like them. When you put the pills in, they are absorbed into the grounds [and litter],” he said. “If the bag breaks, there is less chance for them to get into the environment.”

Additionally, Mr. Coehrs said that most communities have set aside days a couple of times a year where consumers can take unused and expired medications to sites such as the sheriff’s department and fire stations. This year’s last National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day was Sept. 29.

Consumers should be sure to remove labels from medicine bottles that contain their name, address, the drug, and all other personal information before pitching the medicine bottles.

“Unfortunately, there are people who like to go through [others’] garbage,” Ms. Berrie said.

Contact Rose Russell at: or 419-724-6178.

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