With all of the medication changes, moves, and deaths that occur each day in a long term care community, unused and unclaimed medications can become a big problem if you do not know or understand the rules and guidelines for medication disposal.

Both the Personal Care Home and the Assisted Living Facility rules and regulations in Georgia state that “The … community must ensure that it properly disposes of unused medications using the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for the specific medications.”  DEA recommends disposal as noted below:

Disposal in Household Trash

If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, and there are no specific disposal instructions on the label, such
as flushing as described below, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

  1. Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
  3. Throw the container in your household trash;
  4. Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.

Other methods of disposal

There are chemical methods of drug destruction as well, and these may be ordered from the pharmacy.  RX Destroyer and Drug Buster are two of the brand names of these products.  The medications are placed in the container, and then when full, the container is sealed and disposed of in the garbage.

There are companies that long term care communities can contract with to pick up their medications for disposal.  Guardian Pharmacy Atlanta has a company that we can recommend to you that will pick up your drug waste at a very reasonable rate.

No matter which method you choose, it is recommended that unused and unclaimed medications be disposed of regularly.  Non-controlled drugs may be destroyed by unlicensed personnel as long as the appropriate disposal method is followed.  Controlled drugs should be inventoried and recorded, and may be destroyed by two licensed personnel, or one licensed and one unlicensed personnel.  The destruction record should be kept in a file or in the resident’s record.

Long term care communities accumulate unused medications on a daily basis.  Disposing of these medications can be difficult.  Guardian Pharmacy of Atlanta partners with your community to help keep you in compliance with medication disposal.  Our pharmacist and nurse consultants are available to assist and answer questions.  Please call Guardian Pharmacy Atlanta at 770-635-3301 for more information.