Gatton College of Pharmacy, area partners help dispose of expired medications….
Like his faculty colleagues at East Tennessee State University’s Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy, Dr. Jeffrey Gray spends numerous hours ensuring students learn all they need to know about the prescription medications available for patients.
Gray also wants those students to understand the importance of communicating what to do when those medications have outlived their usefulness.
“I feel it is part of a pharmacist’s responsibility,” said Gray, an ETSU assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice. “A pharmacist not only needs to understand how to instruct a patient on how to use the drugs that have been provided, but also the importance of appropriate storage and disposal when they’re of no further use.”
Gray and more than 70 College of Pharmacy students have been heavily involved for nearly three years in the Washington County Substance Abuse Coalition’s drug collection and disposal program. This program allows anyone to bring in medications that are no longer used – such as expired or unwanted prescriptions – to properly dispose of them. Legible names on prescription bottles are marked through so the program donors remain anonymous.
Pharmacy students will participate in another drug collection and disposal event Saturday, Oct. 29, in the Water Street parking lot at the intersection of Roan and Water streets in downtown Johnson City (near Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church). The event lasts from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Other collection events being held simultaneously around the region will be at the Jonesborough Town Hall, 123 Boone St.; Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, 500 Veterans Memorial Parkway; Greeneville Water Commission, 516 N. Main St.; and Bristol Municipal Parking Lot, 801 Anderson St.
Prescription medications that are expired can be ineffective, have unintended effects or lead to accidental poisonings. The medication collection totals from the take-back events are astonishing.
“We’ve disposed of over 1,000 raw pounds of pharmaceuticals from this region,” Gray said, “and over 12,000 doses of controlled substances.”
Gray said that flushing drugs down the toilet is rarely warranted. He has conducted an ongoing research project with results that hearten him.
“Pharmaceuticals that are flushed can eventually become part of the water supply and harm the environment,” Gray said. “One of the questions we’ve investigated among our donors is what is their biggest concern regarding unused medications stored at home. You would think accidental poisoning would be the primary concern, but actually most patients are concerned about the health of our environment. People are very motivated to dispose of their unused medications properly.”
By: Brad Lifford