Most homes have them. They rest inconspicuously in a cluttered drawer. Or, hidden on a shelf behind your favourite cologne. Often, they are sheltered in the mirrored medicine cabinet as we floss. They are the expired or unused medications of aches and pains long forgotten.
According to Drug Free Kids.Org, fifty-one percent of Canadian homes harbour these no-longer- needed products. Yet only 11 per cent of homeowners say they keep them in a safe place, out of the reach of young children and curious pets or the temptation of their adventurous teens.
The Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA) knows all too well:
out of sight is hardly out of mind. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be given that 59 per cent of teens who abuse prescription painkillers say they got them from home.
For over 20 years, the industry-funded stewardship association has been working closely with community pharmacists to offer medication return programs in Canada. It is one of two such programs the HPSA manages in Ontario. The other, also since 2013, is for the return of medical sharps: needles, lancets and alike familiar to those managing acute illnesses.
“There isn’t a parent that does believe their child’s health is not their most important
priority,” says Mark Nykolaichuk, Chairman of the Health Products Stewardship Association, “Proper (secured) storage and timely disposal of medications at home will help reduce the risk of drug abuse in our communities. Although our return programs are not the solution to the growing misuse of medications, they continue to be a convenient, effective and a preventative tool for people to efficiently dispose of such items.”
His comments are echoed by Ginette Vanesse, HPSA’s Director General. “It takes but a few minutes to gather unused medications and then remember to drop them off at your pharmacy. You’re going close-by anyway.”
In 2017, nearly 4,000 community pharmacists throughout Ontario helped residents safely destroy 291 tonnes of expired or unused medications and
292 tonnes of sharps through the return programs. These are programs that help keep Canadian homes safer for everyone.