Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Whether pills, patches, or liquids, managing pharmaceutical waste isn't just a matter of disposing of expired or unwanted medication properly. Even more attention has to be focused on reducing the hundreds of tons of medicine that go unused each year in the United States. Healthcare providers need to be at the forefront of the solution, because they have the means to help ensure that large quantities of unwanted medicines stay out of the water and out of the wrong hands.
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant is doing our part to spread the word about pharmaceutical stewardship to healthcare providers. IISG's Laura Kammin was recently interviewed for an article published in the latest edition of CMA Today (subscription required) titled "Medicine Cabinet Crackdown". CMA Today is published six times a year by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA).
The article, written by Fred Donini-Lenhoff, outlines the scope of the unwanted medicine problem, covering medication abuse/misuse, accidental poisonings, current legislation, medicine take-back programs and environmental impacts. It also provides practical disposal tips and resources for medical assistants to share with patients.
While the article provides guidance on disposal, the real take-home message is the need to reduce waste on the front end. Donini-Lenhoff writes:
One key is to change health professions education to ensure that students and practitioners are cognizant of the systemic side effects of overprescribing, and to look beyond an individual patient to see the larger population's health consequences. ..."Physicians should be mindful of the quantity of medication prescribed," adds Kammin. "Try a sample first to see if it will work for the patient. Do not unnecessarily push samples provided by pharmaceutical reps. Be aware of the consequences of having pharmaceuticals present in the environment. And educate patients on how they can responsibly dispose of any unused medications."
(Image and excerpts: Copyright American Association of Medical Assistants. Reprinted from July/August 2012 CMA Today with permission).