Nurses practicing in senior care have very busy work schedules. From caring for patients to distributing medications to updating records, their days can become overwhelming. One of the more time-consuming tasks is the disposal of unused medication.
When a resident’s medication is permanently discontinued, it must be properly disposed. Prior to updates to the 2014 Drug Enforcement Agency’s regulations which implemented the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, few safe, efficient and environmentally-preferred options were available to communities for controlled drug disposal. Typically, the Director of Nursing and another nurse would itemize the drugs to be destroyed and then undertake the time-consuming task of emptying them out of their containers or blister packs. Removing individual pills from blister packs can not only be time-consuming (and therefore, costly) but also painful and difficult. Once removed, the drugs were typically placed into the toilet or mixed with an undesirable substance, such as kitty litter or dissolved in a chemical prior to putting them into the trash. After all of the medication was removed and destroyed, the residents’ identifying information on the packaging had to be concealed and disposed of safely to prevent disclosure of protected health information.
Fortunately, today due to the promulgation of the 2014 DEA regulations, there are much more efficient, safe and cost-effective methods to dispose of both controlled and non-controlled medications. These methods include the use of DEA-compliant collection receptacles or mailback envelopes and boxes. With these options, medications and their packaging may be disposed of together; removing medications from bottles and blister packs is not required. Due to the time saved by no longer needing to “pop pills,” these disposal programs can save up to $6,600 per year in nurses’ time alone.1
Sharps Compliance offers both the collection receptacle and mailback disposal options. The TakeAway Medication Recovery Systems include mailback boxes and envelopes for long-term care facility residents or resident-directed community employees to mail unused or expired medications directly to Sharps’ DEA-compliant facility for proper treatment. The MedSafe consists of a removable, prepaid UPS ship-back inner liner housed inside a UL-tested, steel locking receptacle into which community employees place residents’ unused medications. The program is managed in conjunction with a retail or LTC collector pharmacy. The TakeAway mailback and MedSafe solutions are not only more cost-effective and efficient for senior living communities, they also protect the environment from discarded drugs and even more importantly, save lives by reducing the potential for diversion.