Title: [GreenYes] Re: collecting/managing old drugs?
On Fri, 22 Aug 2008, Alan Muller wrote:
> This is probably not a new topic, but anyone advise on this:
> Some folks in Delaware are running some collection events, but the
> drugs are to be incinerated. I'm never really happy about
> incinerating anything, so am wondering what alternatives are available.
There isn't _much_ good information out there on this,
unfortunately, but you can start by looking up "essential
medication" -- there are agencies and organizations that collect
unused medications (primarily AIDS/HIV meds) for use elsewhere.
There are a number of other medication donation programs, but there
are all sorts of rules and regulations and specifics about what is
acceptable for redistribution. (Look to the World Health
Organization for some basics on this.)
Another possible solution for at least some disposed materials is,
to separate out all the vitamins/food supplements. They are mostly
unregulated items that may be able to find an easy and legal reuse,
as well as should probably not be toxic chemicals dangerous to our
groundwater, air, etc. You might even be able to add ground up
vitamins/food supplements to a worm bin, or composting operation --
but a chemist/biologist and/or composting/vermicomposting expert may
need to provide more technical data on that as a partial possible
Legalities are complex and difficult.. but you may find avenues that
are possible. I have heard of some people contacting homeless
shelter clinics, and other similar organizations, for donation of
various medications and them willingly taking them, and even being
thankful; but as I understand it, this may not be totally legal.
Other possible avenues of reuse may be in human medications that are
also utilized in animals. I think there's a necessary level of
operating under the radar, or starting upstart new programs to do
good work through medication reuse rather than trying to find a
disposal option, none of which seem perfect; unfortunately programs
will run into legal & liability roadblocks and a little bit of civil
disobedience or risk taking may be required.
I've done lots of (re)searching on this, and it seems nobody really
has a good answer. Some people tell you to bring them back to
pharmacies, some to fire or police departments, etc. and NOBODY has
their story straight. Sometimes you will contact the pharmacies,
hospitals, etc. after being told to take your meds there, and they
won't take them and will tell you to flush them, throw them out,
People give various answers... incineration... landfilling (mixed up
with various contaminants to prevent theft/illegal use, etc.),
flushing down the toilet, etc. None of them are perfect. I think
it partially depends upon the type of medication as to what
treatment is best.
As far as 'expired' items there is extensive research regarding the
actual lifespan of items which is often significantly longer than
any printed or chosen date by the manufacturer. Expiration dates
chosen by manufacturers are often artifical and arbitrary and
determined by needs of marketing and profits and not necessarily by
any actual expectation or knowledge of shelf life and efficacy.
Some examples of this include the known efficacy of Bayer aspirin at
4 and 5 year points whereas Bayer AG puts 2 and 3 year expiration
dates on their packaging. In addition there is extensive US Govt
testing of numerous drugs both prescription and OTC; some drugs have
been known to be effective and useful with a shelf life of 15 years.
A good article on this subject is from the Wall Street Journal and
can be viewed at the two mercola urls below. This article is from
2000, so knowledge on this subject may have been even further
extended since that time.
A partial solution may be in educating people about actual lifespans
and efficacy vs. marked expiration dates. This would at very least
prevent premature disposal, and possibly save people lots of money.
As far as alternative (non-medical) uses of items goes.. there is
well-known folklore about putting aspirin in a plants water. I
recently read a few studies on this and found that there is some
actual scientific evidence showing that this works (of course it's
dependent on the plants one is studying, and what if anything one is
comparing it to.) There are also however, less well-known
alternative uses for items. I know of at least one artist who has
previously used medications in his sculptures. One can also use
acetaminophen (tylenol, etc.) as well as numerous other drugs to
eliminate pest and foreign snake populations in areas (especially
islands) where those pests have decimated native animal populations
with little risk to other animal populations. There are also
numerous other drugs that can be repurposed in this and similar ways
but I'll spare everybody the long scientific discourse. Some of
these alternative uses are actually from studies by and propogated
by the EPA, USDA, NIH, as well as the scientific community at large.
For that matter, some drugs such as common antacids like TUMS would
have obvious alternative uses. Such things are often just calcium
carbonate also known and used as lime, or sometimes chalk.
There really needs to be a significant improvement on changing
things so that medicines can be more easily ( & legally ) reused.
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