Leftover Drug Disposal: Customer Behavior, Pharmacist Recommendations, and Obstacles to Drug Take-Back Box Implementation

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Waste Management (new York, N.Y.)

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Production and use of pharmaceuticals in the United States is high and continues to grow. This, combined with poor wastewater removal rates for drugs in excreted waste, and improper pharmaceutical disposal leads to the presence of pharmaceuticals in fresh- and marine waters and wildlife. In the United States, safe drug take-back boxes, or dropboxes, were established in pharmacies after federal legislation passed in 2014, allowing for year-round safe collection of leftover pharmaceuticals. The overarching objective of this work was to identify opportunities for improving access to proper pharmaceutical disposal. We assessed consumer behavior regarding drug disposal choices and knowledge of dropboxes at pharmacies, investigated pharmacist attitudes toward and recommendations about leftover drug disposal, and compared responses at locations with and without dropboxes. We also explored obstacles to dropbox adoption and usage. We found that customer awareness of dropboxes as well as knowledge about risks of improper disposal are low, however awareness was greater at pharmacies with dropboxes. Additionally, pharmacists at dropbox locations were more consistent in their messaging to customers, more likely to recommend proper disposal methods, and more supportive of drug take-back programs. Through a focus group, we learned that further consumer education would overwhelm the capacity of the existing dropboxes. Based on our findings, we recommend solutions to improper disposal focus on legislation mandating dropboxes at pharmacies and pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to fund proper disposal of unused pharmaceuticals.


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