Medications Return Programs Help Keep Our Homes Safer
Most homes have them. They rest inconspicuously in a cluttered drawer. Or, hidden on a shelf behind your favourite cologne. Often, they are sheltered in the mirrored medicine cabinet as we floss. They are the expired or unused medications of aches and pains long forgotten.
According to Drug Free Kids.Org, fifty-one percent of Canadian homes harbour these no-longerneeded products. Yet only 11 per cent of homeowners say they keep them in a safe place, out of the reach of young children and curious pets or the temptation of their adventurous teens.
The Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA) knows all too well: out of sight is hardly out of mind. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be given that 59 per cent of teens who abuse prescription painkillers say they got them from home.
For 20 years, the industry-funded stewardship association has been working closely with community pharmacists to offer medication return programs in Canada. It is one of two such programs the HPSA manages in Ontario. The other, also since 2013, is for the return of medical sharps: needles, lancets and alike familiar to those managing acute illnesses.
“There isn’t a parent that does believe their child’s health is not their most important priority,” says Earl Black, Chairman of the Health Products Stewardship Association, “Our return programs are not the solution to the growing misuse of prescription drugs, but they are an effective, preventative tool so convenient for people to use.”
His sentiment is echoed by Ginette Vanesse, HPSA’s Executive Director. “Who doesn’t need toiletries, even prescriptions; and, at this time of the year, sunscreen,” she says. “It takes but a few minutes to put those unused medications into a bag before you go shopping and dropping them off with your pharmacist. You’re going there anyway.”
In 2016, nearly 4,000 community pharmacists throughout Ontario helped residents safely destroy 273 tonnes of expired or unused medications and 278 tonnes of sharps through the return programs managed by the Health Products Stewardship Association. These are programs that help keep Canadian homes safer for everyone.