Reduce your Rx waste and safely dispose of your medication with these tips

Celebrated on April 22, Earth Day is the largest environmental event in the world. Every year more than six million Canadians raise awareness and participate in activities that acknowledge and support Earth Day. From school-aged children to large businesses and corporations, we are continuously taking steps to combat global warming, reduce waste and minimize our carbon footprint to improve the environment.

In support of Earth Day, we asked Sam Daneshkhah, our Director of Pharmacy Operations, a few questions about how we reduce our environmental impact as well as how you can safely dispose of medication while maintaining your privacy. Here’s what he had to say:

Express Scripts Canada reduces its pharmacy waste in several different ways. Some of which are:

  • We enhance our patient’s adherence to their drug therapy by consistently conducting follow-ups to determine how they are doing on their medication(s) and whether they are administering their medication(s) correctly.

  • Our health care team members and benefit employees determine the best medication option for the patient to ensure that the drug will not go to waste.

  • We help resolve our patients’ drug-therapy matters by offering recommendations, such as patient assistance programs for expensive specialty medications or packaging their medications in a dosette.

  • We notify our patients of our medicine take-back program—a program that takes back unused medication so it can be disposed of appropriately.

Another major contributor to our waste reduction is our Health Decision Science approach, which increases drug adherence and has reduced our waste production. We encourage our patients to take positive action in their health care management become more informed of the impactful differences that medications can create.

Reducing your waste

When starting a new medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible drug interactions and alternative drugs or treatments that may result in less waste or fewer effects on the environment

You should also share your list of medications, supplements and vitamins, and ask questions such as: when will my new medication start working?, what are the possible side effects?, how and when should I take my new medication? You can also ask about alternative drugs or treatments that may result in less waste or fewer effects on the environment. Also, don’t buy over-the-counter medication if it’s not immediately needed.

Properly storing your medication

Properly storing your medication is extremely important not only for your safety and the effectiveness of the medication, but also to eliminate the possibility of having to throw out compromised medication. Improperly storing medication can not only compromise the effectiveness of the medication, but also your health if consumed.

Some medications are required to be stored at room temperature while others need to be refrigerated (most injections and most diluted antibiotics) or placed in a freezer (vaccines). Medications should not be stored in the bathroom or kitchen—due to the presence of moisture and excess heat—and always stored away from children and pets reach. If you are not sure how to properly store your medication while at home or traveling, speak with your pharmacist.

Medication disposal

Medications that have expired or will no longer be used as well as sharp materials (needles, infusion sets, lancets, etc.), can always be sent back to pharmacies with integrated drug disposal programs, such as the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy.

Here are some tips to safely dispose of your medication:

  • Send or bring back medications to your pharmacist for proper disposal. Leave the medication in its original packaging with the medication label. Your pharmacist will need to properly identify the medication to determine the appropriate disposal method.

  • Use companies that specialize in medical waste disposal, including sharps. Companies who specialize in medical waste disposal have been put in place to prevent medication misuse and to promote public safety.

  • Recycle our tamper resistant packaging and old pill bottles, but be sure to remove the medication and your personal information from the label.

  • Utilize a medication take-back program in your region. Contact your local municipality for guidance.

If you don’t have access to a medicine take-back program, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  • Remove personal information from the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or medicine packaging, then dispose of the container;

  • Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds;

  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and

  • Throw the container in your household trash.

We’re taking it one step further!

To further reduce our environmental impact, we will implement a recycling initiative that will reduce the amount of medication bottles that end up in landfills. We hope to work with recycling manufacturers who will shred and grind the bottles as well as remove any non-plastic materials, such as the label and send the final outcome to vendors who will make use of it.