LOS ANGELES, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) — A new survey conducted by researchers at University of California, San Francisco (UC San Francisco) found that fewer than half of California pharmacies provided correct instructions for drug disposal, according to a release of the university on Monday.
Proper disposal of leftover medication, particularly antibiotics and opioids, can help reduce antibiotic resistance, prevent children from being poisoned and stop the misuse of addiction-forming drugs, according to the study published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.
The telephone survey showed fewer than half of California pharmacies provided disposal instructions meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, and just 10 percent followed the FDA’s preferred recommendation to take back unused medications from their customers.
Over a two-month period in early 2018, researchers posing as parents of children who had recently had surgery spoke to employees at nearly 900 pharmacies in California and asked them what to do with two leftover medications: the antibiotic Bactrim, and liquid Hycet, a pain reliever containing an opioid compound.
In the absence of a takeback program, the FDA says antibiotics should be mixed with an unpalatable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter, and disposed of in a sealed container in the trash to keep them from getting into the water supply or inadvertently ingested. Opioids are recommended to be flushed down a toilet, since people may otherwise find and accidentally ingest or intentionally abuse them.
Researchers found just 47 percent of pharmacies gave the correct instructions on how to dispose of antibiotics, and only 34 percent gave correct instructions for opioids.
“This clearly points to the need for better dissemination of information on proper medication disposal,” said Hillary Copp, an associate professor of urology at UCSF and the senior author of the study.
“The FDA has specific instructions on how to dispose of these medications, and the American Pharmacists Association has adopted this as their standard. Yet it’s not being given to the consumer correctly the majority of the time.”
Copp stressed that improving disposal practices will require both better efforts to educate patients, and those who advise them, as well as expanded disposal programs to ensure that patients have a place to take unused medication.