April 26, 2013

Rx students to fight waste by tabulating unused drugs

More than 100 UNE pharmacy students have volunteered to catalog prescription drugs that will be collected Saturday in Belfast, Saco and Scarborough.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Saturday’s take-back event will take place from 10 am to 2 p.m. at various locations throughout Maine, including:

Biddeford: Public Works Recycling Center, 371 Hill Street

Saco: Community Center, Franklin Street

Old Orchard Beach: New Police Station, 16 East Emerson Cummings Boulevard

Lyman: Goodwin Mills Fire Station

Kennebunk: Hannaford Supermarket, 65 Portland Road

Kennebunkport: Police Station, Route 9 (across from the American Legion)

Buxton: Rite-Aid Pharmacy, 226 Parker Farm Road

Buxton: Hannaford Supermarket & Pharmacy, 24 Portland Road

Disposal is free and anonymous. Officials ask that personal identification information (name, address) be removed from labels. Prescription and over-the-counter pills, drops, ointments, et cetera will be accepted. However, no thermometers, batteries, durable medical equipment or intravenous solutions, injectables or syringes can be accepted.

Since the DEA-sponsored drug take-back effort started in 2010, Maine has consistently led the nation in the amount of drugs returned per capita.

The volume grew from 7,820 pounds collected in the first take-back event to 19,980 pounds in an event in the spring of 2012. Collections dropped off to 13,980 pounds in the fall of 2012. Organizers attributed that to bad weather.

While the large amount of drugs collected in Maine may be attributable to the state's large elderly population, Michael Wardrop, the DEA agent in charge of Maine, noted that drug abuse issues have been well publicized here and Mainers are concerned about keeping unwanted medicine out of the environment.

"Everyone has stepped up to the challenge and are scouring their cabinets and bedside tables," he said.

Sixty to 65 police stations in Maine now have drug collection boxes where people can drop off drugs at any time.

Wardrop said his agency is concerned about drugs falling into the wrong hands but he feels the data collected is also important.

"That's the type of information that can somewhat drive policy and the complex issues with respect to prescribing practices," he said.

While state officials worry that the program would be cost-prohibitive for the state to run, efforts are under way to cut costs.

All of the medications collected are now taken to a specially licensed incinerator in Haverhill, Mass. But the state Department of Environmental Protection is working to allow the drugs to be burned in the state's three waste incinerators to save money.

Key to that effort is determining whether air emissions from incinerating the medications pose a health risk. Ecomaine in Portland is scheduled to do a controlled burn of some of the material on Monday to gauge the environmental impact, officials said.

The variety of medications being turned in is remarkable, said Cumberland County Sheriff's Deputy Joe Schnupp.

The sheriff's office maintains a drop box at the county jail. On Thursday, Schnupp sifted through a week's worth of collections, uncovering a blood pressure gauge and a blood sugar test kit, in addition to medicines that ran the gamut from bottles of Tylenol to more than 100 doses of Diazepam, a sedative also sold as Valium. Some of the medicines were 15 years old.

Stewart said the collection effort has produced some eye-catching examples, including a moving box full of unopened prescription lotion.

More than 100 UNE pharmacy students have volunteered to catalog the wide variety of drugs that will be collected on Saturday at collection points in Belfast, Saco, Scarborough and the UNE College of Pharmacy. They must have their tabulations complete by 2 p.m., when police haul the medicine away for disposal.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:



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