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Pharmacies provide proper disposal of medication

August 9, 2018

Earlier this week, Governor Pete Ricketts declared the week of Aug. 27-Sept. 2 as Nebraska Drug Overdose Awareness Week.

Along with raising awareness of drug overdoses in Nebraska, which have tripled since 1999 with 81 percent of all poisoning deaths caused by drugs and medications, the week also provides an opportunity to support the Nebraska MEDS Initiative.

The Nebraska MEDS Initiative is a statewide initiative that has created a coalition of 330 participating pharmacies that will take back medications free of charge.

“Every day is Take-Back Day in Nebraska,” said Hallie Schimenti, project coordinator for the Nebraska MEDS Initiative.

Schimenti said Aug. 31 was established as International Drug Overdose Awareness Day to increase public knowledge about the severity of drug misuse, and “Nebraska Drug Overdose Awareness Week is aimed at making the public aware that they can take unused and expired medications back to the pharmacy any day of the year.”

Pharmacies that participate in the Nebraska MEDS Initiative accept medications for safe and legal disposal, giving consumers an easy and safe method of keeping medications out of the environment and from falling into the wrong hands.

According to local pharmacist Eric Schlegel, who works at Kubat Pharmacy in Fremont, proper disposal of unused and expired medications is important for several reasons.

“For one, it keeps them out of the water supply,” he said. “We also want to get unused and expired medication out of the population, because when they do expire they might not work as well, and certain things can even become dangerous to use.

“We also don’t want those medications to get into the hands of someone they are not prescribed to, small children could accidentally take them and people with a lot of prescriptions might accidentally take the wrong one if they have a lot of old bottles around.”

The process of turning in unused and expired prescriptions is pretty straightforward, according to Schlegel.

“We can’t do narcotics or controlled substances,” he said. “But if someone has other medications that are unused, expired, or maybe they changed prescriptions, or have prescriptions from a loved one who passed away, we can dispose of those properly for people.”

Individuals with unused or expired prescription medications can drop them off at Kubat Pharmacy, and several other local pharmacies, by bringing in the prescription in their original bottles.

At Kubat, staff then puts the returned prescriptions into a 20-gallon box and then securely takes the full box to UPS where it is returned to a distributor and properly destroyed.

While pharmacies cannot take back narcotics and controlled substances, they can provide individuals with secure envelopes that they can use to securely return themselves.

“They have to bag them up themselves, and then they can just take those medications to a UPS drop box or facility where they are sent back to distributors and disposed of,” Schlegel said.

Along with Kubat, other local pharmacies that are participating in the Nebraska MEDS Initiative include: Fremont Drugstore, Hy-Vee Pharmacy, Walgreens, and the FAMCare Pharmacy.

A full list of participating pharmacies can be found online at www.leftovermeds.com.

“Since the MEDS initiative went statewide in 2016, over 61,000 pounds of medications have been returned to pharmacies across the state,” Schimenti said. “The Coalition is a great mix of state, local, and community organizations representing a variety of stakeholders in the medication disposal issue.”

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