Medicines Programs

NWPSCTake Back Your Meds

Take Back Your Meds is a group of health organizations, police, drugstores, local governments, environmental groups, and others in Washington State who support medicine take-back programs to reduce access to highly-addictive drugs, reduce the risk of poisonings, and reduce environmental contamination. These organizations support the creation of a secure, statewide medicine return program for unwanted medicines from households that is financed by pharmaceutical manufacturers, and that does not rely on state and local government funding.

In this short YouTube video, Thurston County Sheriff Snaza talks about why Washington needs a statewide medicine take-back system that is financed by the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Sheriff Snaza protects his community by operating six sites where people can drop off their unwanted medicines. In 2010, they collected over 2000 pounds of drugs but they don’t have sustainable funding to keep the take-back program going, or to promote it widely.

NWPSCPH:ARM Pilot Team: Pharmaceuticals from Households: A Return Mechanism

The pilot was conducted from 2006 to 2008 by a coalition of government and private partners in Washington State to explore ways to implement an effective take-back system for unwanted medicines from residential consumers. The project was called the Unwanted Medicine Return Program operated by the PH:ARM Pilot Team (PDF) (Pharmaceuticals from Households: A Return Mechanism). Two local companies, a local retail pharmacy chain and a clinical managed care organization provided approximately 70 collection sites during the pilot program.

The set up costs for the pilot were financed by public agencies, private and public grant foundations, and participating private companies, with the goal of a long term project being financially supported by the pharmaceutical industry. Costs included purchasing secure containers, advertising, collection and transportation, project management and disposal costs.

Medications Return Program – Canada

In British Columbia and other Canadian provinces, the Post Consumer Pharmaceutical Stewardship Association, a pharmaceutical and health products manufacturer-run nonprofit, is responsible for the collection and safe disposal of medications and health products. There is no charge to the public or pharmacies for environmentally responsible disposal of medications. 

The pharmaceutical industry voluntarily started a pharmaceuticals stewardship program in 1996. The program has been regulated by the government since 1997 under the passage of the Post-Consumer Residual Stewardship Program regulation and the subsequent 2004 Recycling Regulation (BC Reg. 449/2004). The program is administered by the PCPSA and funded by the industry.

Consumers drop off medicines at approximately 889 participating community pharmacies, representing 92% (as of 2006) of all retail pharmacies in British Columbia. The pharmacies store returned pharmaceuticals in plastic containers, which are kept behind the pharmacy counter. Upon pick up, the containers are sent to a licensed incinerator located in Beiseker, Alberta for destruction. Learn more from the Ministry of the Environment and through presentations given at the NWPSC Tour of Product Stewardship Programs in BC.