204815 Preserving the integrity of our waters through the use of a rural-based, older adult mail-back program for unwanted prescription drugs

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 2:45 PM

Lenard Kaye, DSW/PhD , Center on Aging, University of Maine, Bangor, ME
Jennifer Crittenden, MSW , Center on Aging, University of Maine, Bangor, ME
Stevan Gressitt, MD , Office of Adult Mental Health Services, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Augusta, ME
Americans 65 and over represent 13% of the U.S. population but consume more than 30% of prescriptions sold and 40%-50% of over-the-counters. Furthermore, older adults have the lowest prescription drug compliance rates of any age group, are victims of half the deaths associated with prescription drugs, and 40% of drug-related hospitalizations.

The first state-wide postal mail return program of unused prescription drugs that have accumulated in citizens' homes in Maine responds, in particular, to the challenge of proper disposal of medications in rural communities. This research-based program aims to: 1) reduce the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals; 2) prevent teen prescription drug abuse; and 3) insure medication safety. The Safe Medicine Disposal for ME program uses pharmacies and other community health and human service organizations as mailer distribution points.

The advantages of mail-back include low barrier citizen engagement in a public health issue at the community level and participation of older adult volunteers in program implementation. Analysis of returned drugs confirm that more than 1,200 citizens (mean age = 58 years; 60% females) have participated in ridding their households of more than 500 pounds of unwanted drugs (150,000 pills plus gels, creams, inhalers, and other items; 10% controlled substances; 90% prescriptions). Receipt of older medications (20 years +) and full bottles of unused medications from mail order and V.A. pharmacies were not uncommon nor were narcotics with high street values. Radiological testing confirms that there were no radioactive hazards present in the returns.

*(funded by the U.S. EPA Grant #CH-83336001-0)

Learning Objectives:
Participants will be able to assess the costs and benefits associated with implementing an unused prescription drug return and disposal program.

Keywords: Environmental Health Hazards, Prescription Drug Use Patterns

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I currently serve as the program manager for the Safe Medicine Disposal for ME Program. I have presented at numerous local, state, and national gerontology and drug policy conferences on administering drug disposal programming.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.