DEERFIELD, Ill., Sept. 30, 2010 – Walgreens (NYSE: WAG)(NASDAQ: WAG) has launched the first ongoing, nationwide Safe Medication Disposal Program, a safe and environmentally responsible way to dispose of unused or expired medications. For $2.99, customers can purchase a specially designed envelope available at any Walgreens pharmacy counter that allows them to place, seal and mail prescription or over-the-counter medications they no longer use for safe, eco-friendly disposal. Controlled substances are excluded from this program due to current regulations. Postage is included in the cost of the envelope.
Once securely sealed, the envelope can be dropped into any U.S. Postal Service mailbox where it will be sent to an approved medication incinerator. There, a licensed law enforcement official is onsite as part of a quality control system to ensure no envelope is tampered with or opened. Envelopes remain sealed while incinerated. Ashes from the incinerated envelopes can be used for making “green” related building materials rather than going into a landfill.
“In thousands of communities, Walgreens serves as the most accessible source of everyday health information,” said Walgreens vice president of pharmacy operations Richard Ashworth. “That makes us a natural choice for guidance on anything involving medications, including proper disposal. Through this program, we can do our part to keep expired or unused medications out of waterways and out of the hands of those who could be accidentally harmed.”
A recent Associated Press investigation discovered trace amounts of a variety of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water supply of 24 major metropolitan areas across the country. Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says these trace amounts pose no public safety risk, there is still heightened awareness of proper medication disposal among many Americans. By providing this safe disposal envelope, Walgreens pharmacists can help patients not only make informed choices about their medication but also offer a convenient, hassle-free way to safely handle medications they no longer use.
Walgreens also hopes to drive awareness of its new Safe Medication Disposal Program as a way to address the growing concern around children and teens accessing unused medications in the home. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites that prescription and over-the-counter medications account for eight of the 14 most frequently abused drugs by high school seniors. The success of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s drug take back day this past Saturday is a strong indicator of the public need for a safe, convenient medication disposal solution.
Walgreens has participated in medication take back events through local health departments and law enforcement agencies for many years. Walgreens.com also offers visitors U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines on safe disposal of medications when a collection or drug take back program is not available.
Walgreens is working with Sharps Compliance Corp. (NASDAQ: SMED), a leading full-service provider of cost-effective management solutions for medical waste and unused dispensed medications, to offer this new service. The company estimates that more than 200 million pounds of unused dispensed medications are disposed of improperly each year.