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How to Start a Medication Disposal Program in Your Pharmacy

How to Start a Medication Disposal Program in Your Pharmacy by Elements magazine |

June 15, 2016

Your patients may be disposing of their expired, unused or unwanted prescriptions unsafely.

“An estimated 250 million pounds of unused medications are improperly disposed of each year,” said Ronna Hauser, Pharm.D., vice president of pharmacy affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

Adding a medication disposal receptacle in your pharmacy gives your patients a place to safely— and conveniently—dispose of their unwanted prescription medications. “Providing a safe disposal service in the local community helps to keep waterways clean, prevents accidental ingestion or overdose, and curbs prescription drug medication abuse. It’s also a great way to introduce potential new customers to one’s store,” she said.

A helpful resource

Medication disposal receptacles today can accept both controls and non-controls, which can help curb the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.

“It’s really important now because the controls are causing the problem,” said David Tusa, CEO and president of Sharps Compliance Inc., which offers MedSafe®, a medication disposal box program for pharmacies. “It’s a great opportunity for the pharmacy to be able to add this service, where the consumers come into the pharmacy and deposit their unused medications into collection receptacles.”

Offering a medication disposal unit in your pharmacy also provides a service to your community. “Most, if not all, participating community pharmacies [in the Dispose My Meds™ program] do not charge customers to dispose of medications at their stores, and many pharmacy owners offer the program as a community service to both patients and non-patients alike,” Hauser said. “Many of the chain drug stores that provide disposal services, such as mail-back envelopes, charge patients for them.”

The business of disposal

Offering a medication disposal program in your pharmacy isn’t just good for the environment and your community—it can benefit your business, too.

“Independent pharmacies are all about developing personal relationships. It’s an additional service that they provide to their customers, which is hopefully going to build a stronger relationship,” Tusa said.

“For a relatively low cost, pharmacies can provide a much-needed service to their customers,” he said. “And, if those customers are in the store, hopefully they’re going to buy more things once they’re looking around. So, that could help defer some of the cost pharmacies are paying for that receptacle.”

Medication disposal programs also help attract new patients and retain current customers by serving as a marketing tool.

“Pharmacies are committed to making their community a healthier place, and a disposal box is an easy and affordable way to fulfill that commitment while adding value to their pharmacy,” said Mike Pietrini, president and CEO of American Security Cabinets, which offers medication disposal boxes in varying sizes for pharmacies.

A medication disposal unit can also differentiate your pharmacy. “Independent pharmacists are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from the big boys,” Tusa said. “It’s a great service they can provide to their customers.”

Promoting the program

If you place a medication disposal unit in your pharmacy, don’t forget to spread the word about it.

“It’s important to make use of a variety of marketing initiatives with varying focuses,” Pietrini said. He suggests using print advertising, email, website marketing and social media, so you can appeal to a spectrum of patients, from millennials to middle-aged patients to elderly patients.

Another option is tying the disposal box to your loyalty program, where you give out bonus points to patients who make use of the disposal box.


Medication Disposal Box Options

Your pharmacy has a variety of options to choose from when looking for a medication disposal box program for your pharmacy. Here are the details on three options.

American Security Cabinets
American Security Cabinets manufactures prescription drug collection boxes and offers 6-gallon, 17-gallon, 33-gallon and 68-gallon medication disposal units for pharmacies. The units accept controlled medications (Schedule II-V), non-controlled medications and over- the-counter (OTC) products. All units come in stainless steel, but can be customized in the color of your choice.

Besides purchasing the unit upfront, available programs include a leasing program, an event kiosk program for pharmacies with space limitations, a trade- in program for pharmacies that need to upgrade to a larger receptacle, and a try-and-buy program, which allows pharmacies to try a medication disposal unit for a low monthly fee during a trial period.

American Security Cabinets partners with multiple DEA-registered reverse distributors, and pharmacies can choose which reverse distributor they want to work with to handle destroying the product once a bin’s liner is full.

Cost: Starts at $37 a month. “The cost to run the program will be determined by the frequency in which the box needs to be emptied. This varies substantially based on factors such as community involvement, population size, and the size of the box chosen,” said Mike Pietrini, president and CEO of American Security Cabinets.

MedSafe®, a medication disposal program from Sharps Compliance Inc., offers 18-gallon and 38-gallon medication disposal receptacles for pharmacies. The units accept controlled medications (Schedule II-V), non- controlled medications and OTC products. The receptacles come with an inner-liner, which the pharmacy mails back to the company. The waste is later disposed of through a DEA-approved incineration process.

MedSafe also offers a take-home envelope option that pharmacies can sell or provide to patients who would rather mail-in their unused or unwanted non- control medications.

Cost: Pharmacies on the leasing program can expect to pay $100-$150 per month for a MedSafe disposal unit, which includes the recurring cost for the receptacle liners.

Dispose My Meds™
For members of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), the Dispose My Meds™ program, which is managed by the NCPA Foundation, provides an affordable option for pharmacies to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescription medications for their patients.

“NCPA members receive a discount on Sharp’s TakeAway Environmental Return SystemTM containers (for the disposal of non-controlled substances only) or pre-paid postage envelopes. The MedSafe® is also available for purchase at a discounted rate for the disposal of controlled substances,” said Ronna Hauser, Pharm.D., vice president of pharmacy affairs at NCPA.

Cost: Prices of the units vary depending on size, but “a 10-gallon TakeAway container is only $75 at the discounted NCPA member price. All prices include shipping, tracking, packaging and witnessed destruction at the Sharp’s incineration facility,” she said.


3 Reasons to Offer a Medication Disposal Box

1. Prevent drug abuse
With an increasing national epidemic of prescription drug abuse, offering a medication disposal box in your pharmacy provides your patients with a safe and convenient option to dispose of unwanted medications.

2. Differentiate your pharmacy
Offering a medication disposal program at your pharmacy will distinguish your business from competitors. It can get new customers through your door while increasing customer retention and sales from existing customers.

3. Protect the environment
Unwanted medications are often improperly disposed of and can damage the environment. Offering a medication disposal bin at your pharmacy helps protect the environment by providing an option for people to dispose of their medications without flushing them or throwing them away, which can contaminate the water supply.




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