The University of Michigan College of Pharmacy hosted a Safe Medication Disposal event on Tuesday, which collected and disposed of unused or expired medications in an environmentally friendly way to protect the ecosystem. This event was led by two student organizations within the College of Pharmacy: American Pharmacists Association – Academy of Student Pharmacists and Phi Delta Chi, a professional pharmacy fraternity founded in Ann Arbor.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was put on pause in the 2020-2021 school year. Last semester’s event collected 541 bottles of medication. Drop-off sites were located on Ingalls Mall and inside the University Hospital complex People could either drive or walk up to the organizers to drop off their medications. Volunteers sorted the medications into different categories such as capsules, tablets and controlled substances before sending them off to disposal.
Just two hours into the event, several 100-gallon bins were already filled with medications and volunteers from the College of Pharmacy worked together to efficiently sort and dispose of the waste. Pharmacy student Brendan Veit was among the student volunteers at the Ingalls Mall location. He said the goal of this event was to educate people on the importance of proper medical disposal.
“Some people don’t understand how much of an impact it has on the ecosystem when medications are thrown away or flushed down the toilet,” Veit said. “Taking medications out of landfills and disposing of them properly makes it so that there’s no real chance of anyone misusing the medication.”
The University follows the Environmental Protection Agency’s suggestion of incinerating collected medicine by sending the collected medications to Drug & Laboratory, Inc. Drugs that cannot be incinerated are sent to chemically-secure landfills.
The Food and Drug Administration offers a list of medications that are safe to flush and provides various ways to dispose of other types of medication safely at home to prevent controlled substance abuse and the contamination of local waterways. The Safe Medication Disposal event aimed to reduce the harmful effects of improper disposal of medication.
Nancy Mason, who retired as dean at the College of Pharmacy in 2020 and is now an emerita clinical professor of pharmacy, created the safe disposal project with other faculty members in 2014. She said the best way to combat medicine ending up in landfills and water supplies.
“These kinds of events are the best way to dispose of medications because they all get incinerated and don’t get into landfills and water supplies,” Mason said. “Getting medications out of the house when they are no longer useful is important for controlled substance diversion and (reducing) poisonings.”
Emily Nguyen is a second year PharmD candidate and one of the organizers of the event. She discussed the importance of safe medication disposal to protect the environment.
“Certain medication, when you dispose of it incorrectly, can get into the water,” Nguyen said. “It is a bit more difficult to clean the water, and that is the main reason why we want to dispose of it in a proper way.”
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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly utilized “School of Pharmacy” to refer to the “College of Pharmacy” at the University of Michigan. It has since been updated to reflect the correct name of the College. Nancy Mason’s role at the College of Pharmacy was also updated to accurately reflect her retirement and emerita status.