Not sure where to drop off unwanted drugs?  Click here!  


The Problem  

According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services which publishes the National Health Expenditure Projections 2012-2022, approximately $275.9 billion in prescription drugs will be prescribed in the U.S in 2014. By 2020, that number is projected to reach $379.9 billion. A report estimated that 10 to 33 percent of prescribed medicines are not consumed. With a lack of safe and secure disposal options, consumers traditionally have had the option of trashing, flushing or storing these medicines in the home. For example, a City of Roseville telephone survey of residents conducted in January 2014 found that although 48% of respondents used responsible disposal methods, 30% still disposed through the household trash or toilet and 17% did not know how to get rid of unwanted medicines. Numerous studies have documented the widespread consequences of improperly stored and disposed medicines, including the impacts on water quality and public health.

To learn more about the problems caused by improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and other health products such as sharps, read CPSC’s “A Prescription for Change,” which appeared as an insert in the Sacramento News & Review in March 2014. A second “A Prescription for Change” for Marin County was published in December 2014, and the third “A Prescription for Change” insert for San Mateo County was published electronically in June 2015. Educational inserts were also published in Alameda County and Santa Clara County in Spring 2016. The inserts can be accessed by clicking on the corresponding cover below.

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The Solution – Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws requiring that pharmaceutical manufacturers manage their products’ waste at end-of-life have been implemented throughout the world. To comply with such legislation pharmaceutical manufacturers and others in the product chain will design, manage and fund take-back programs to securely collect unwanted medicines and sometimes their packaging from the public and ensure the collected materials are properly managed.

Pharmaceutical EPR Programs From Around the World

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Click flag graphics above for fact sheets and information on international programs.

Pharmaceutical EPR in the United States

Following the lead of Canada, France, Spain, and others, local governments in the United States are beginning to implement pharmaceutical EPR laws through local ordinances since state legislation has not passed.

Alameda County, California

On July 24, 2012, Alameda County adopted the Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance. This ordinance is based on the program in British Columbia, operated by many of the same pharmaceutical companies doing business in the U.S. This precedent setting ordinance was the first in the nation to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the safe collection and disposal of unused medications from the public, starting with a challenge by the pharmaceutical industry in December of 2012 and two appeals which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court denying the request to hear the case on May 26, 2015.

US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Hearing Video – PhRMA v. County of Alameda, 7/11/2014:
(Alameda hearing begins at 1:01:50)

Click to view any city or county with a pharmaceutical EPR ordinance

Voluntary Pharmaceutical Stewardship

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In 2016 Walgreens became the first retailer to implement an ongoing national stewardship program by installing safe medication disposal kiosks in more than 600 drugstores in 45 states and Washington, D.C. to make the disposal of medications — including opioids and other controlled substances — easier and more convenient while helping to reduce the misuse of medications and the rise in overdose deaths.  To date they have collected 72 tons of meds! In a Walgreens press release announcing the program, Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of pharmacy and retail operations said “Walgreens pharmacists play an important role in counseling patients on the safe use of their medications, and now we are leading the way in retail pharmacy’s fight against prescription drug abuse.

Don’t Rush to Flush, Meds in the Bin We All Win! Medicine Collection Program

CPSC received a grant from the Rose Foundation to establish a medication collection program in Sacramento and Yolo counties in July 2013. The resulting program, named “Don’t Rush to Flush, Meds in the Bin We All Win!” (DRTF) established six permanent medication sites available to the public free of charge in Sacramento and Yolo counties and has since expanded to Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Madera counties. DRTF is being licensed and sold to communities across the country. Email for more information.

Dispensary of Hope

An estimated $2.2 billion in sample medications provided to medical practices go to waste each year, meanwhile millions of uninsured patients go without the medications they need. Dispensary of Hope is a national, not-for-profit social enterprise that serves patients by recovering donated surplus medication from physician offices, hospital pharmacies, manufacturers, distributors, and other licensed healthcare providers. The medication is given away for free to patients who lack healthcare insurance and are under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The list of sites is available here.

Click here to connect with Dispensary of Hope on Social Media!


Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine (SIRUM) is 501(c)3 nonprofit that has developed an online platform to connect safety-net clinics with donated medications from suppliers, pharmacies, and health facilities. They give pharmacies an option to donate rather than destroy their unused & returned medicines. To learn more about SIRUM, watch this video.

Click here to connect with SIRUM on Social Media!

Safely Dispose of Your Medications

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