Backers of a state-funded program to safely dispose of unused medications are launching a new public awareness campaign. Kate Gainer, with the Iowa Pharmacy Association, says the TakeAway Program was launched in Iowa in 2009 to prevent accidental misuse of prescription drugs by the elderly and abuse by teenagers.
“The number two abused substance by teenagers is prescription medications,” Gainer said. “So, getting those drugs properly disposed of when they’re no longer needed can curb drug abuse among teenagers.” Old medications that are properly incinerated also protects the environment.
“Back in the day, people used to think flushing medications down the toilet was the best way to dispose of them,” Gainer said. “There have been numerous studies now that have discovered pharmaceuticals in our water. We want to prevent that from happening.” Iowa’s TakeAway Program allows Iowans to dispose of their old medications for free by dropping them off at participating pharmacies. When the program was launched two years ago, 200 pharmacies were involved.
“That’s now increased to 412 pharmacies in all of Iowa’s 99 counties,” Gainer said. “From those sites, we’ve collected over 15,000 pounds of unused medications.” But, Gainer says there are still many Iowans unaware of the program. She’s urging people to clear their medicine cabinets of expired or unused drugs and drop them off at a participating pharmacy. Iowa’s TakeAway Program is run on $150,000 in state funding.
That funding is set to expire this summer. If that happens, Gainer says pharmacies could stay in the program and possibly pass the cost on to consumers.