Monday, November 7, 2011

Talking About Waste (Again)

"The Drug Enforcement Administration says people turned in more than 188.5 tons of unwanted or expired prescription medications in the agency’s third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 29."

This kind of bothers me. What a waste! There are a lot people around the world who have little or no access to quality pharmaceuticals and you wonder how much of this stuff might have helped someone.

Sure, there are a lot of reasons why prescriptions are wasted or not completed. A patient starts a new medication and can't tolerate it; they start an antibiotic and it has to be changed later because of lab results; a patient is prescribed 30 tablets of pain medication for a minor procedure and needs only one or two. But there are a lot of situations where I feel like I'm looking waste right in the face, like:

-- a person starting a brand new medication, and is prescribed a 90-day supply right off the bat...

-- a tiny little baby prescribed voluminous quantities of a topical product (the jar of ointment is almost bigger than the kid)...

-- OTC products that are prescribed in multiple packages at a time (this is especially unsettling when the recipient of the prescription seems completely clueless on what they're supposed to do with it)

-- a gigantic bottle of some horrific-tasting liquid medication, for a kid who I can tell you right now ain't having none of it after that first dose....

-- boxes and boxes and boxes of expensive nebulized medications, inhalers, aerochambers going out the door ---especially for anyone who can't look up from their cell phone long enough to even answer me, when I ask if they know how to use the stuff.

When someone complains that they can't get more than a 30-day supply with their insurance, or that they can't get an 'early' refill, I'm kind of sympathetic but I understand what the point of that is --- it's to try and keep the waste to a minimum. I don't feel like a lot of people have the respect for prescription medication that it warrants. And sorry, but I see NO reason why any prescription should be 'lost.' Things happen, but I really grit my teeth when someone airily tells me they misplaced their $200 inhaler like it was a bag of M & Ms.

And of course, don't even try to figure out why you fill all those prescriptions that never get picked up----

That's my little rant for today.


8 comments:

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I get that all the time, where they want a 90 script right off the bat to try a medicine, and refuse to consider a smaller script to start. Drives me nuts.

Pharmacist Erin said...

We keep our Rxs in the drawer for 10 days then return to stock. It's mind blowing how many we return. Why in God's green earth did you call this in/sit in a Dr's office/ drop off a Rx if you weren't going to pick it up?! One of life's mysteries.

dr lasermed said...

Sometimes I wish there was a way to "exchange" or "donate" meds that are unused. When we change a patient's dose, a patient has a reaction, or they no longer need a specific medication for whatever reason, it would be nice to be able to give it to someone else who can use it.
I went through 4 different medications before I found the right one for a cardiac problem last spring. I have three half full bottles left. I guess I'll turn them in next year.

Frantic Pharmacist said...

I agree with Dr. LaserMed -- of course the State Boards are extremely strict about prohibiting re-dispensing of any medication that has gone out of the pharmacy's 'control,' but I bet there are a lot of needy people out there who couldn't care less where it came from..

WarmSocks said...

Exchanging would be great. I have two Enbrel syringes and one Humira syringe in my refrigerator. My rheumatologist says she's not allowed to give it to anyone else. I can't bring myself to throw it out - at least until it expires. I know two other RA patients, and if their doctors ever put them on biologics, they'll come visit and my refrigerator will be emptier when they leave.

pharmacy chick said...

as a pharmacist I cannot tell you how many times people have some to me mere DAYS after filling a rx to tell me " I cant take it", " Dr changed it". etc. that 188 tons is probably just the tip of the ice berg. how many hundreds of TONS of meds weren't even bothered to be brought in...were thrown out..or flushed?

Anonymous said...

Mom was a nursing supervisor in I guess what is now called a skilled nursing facility. When a patient passed away, she would bring home "destroyed" meds that they could not give to other patients because of these stupid laws. The medication was always under control of the medical staff, so why did it have to be destroyed! Many years later when COPD finally took her, I literally had thousands of dollars worth of untouched, sealed meds. I called more than one free clinic hoping that someone would take them as I am sure there are many people out there who can't afford these. But alas, no one would. I'm not a big conspiracy theorist, but I have to believe the pharmaceutical lobby is fully in support of these laws. How much could Medicare save each year if just the nursing homes could redirect these meds to the patients that need them?

pfongk said...

I always seem to be throwing out nebules of ventolin. My son or I get sick enough with Asthma that we need the nebuliser for about a week every year, unfortunately we can't buy just a couple of ampules and I end up having to toss the rest. It's the same with prednisolone, he'll need 3ml for 3 days and it comes in a 100ml bottle that has 28days until it has to be thrown out.