Without checking, I tried to drop off some expired prescription drugs at my health plan pharmacy for disposal and found, to my surprise, that they would not take them. It was suggested that I check with my town hall. Checking the Belmont web site, I saw that there was a 24 hour drop box at the police station for expired and/or unused prescription medications.
While I think that it’s great that the town has established a drop off point, I feel that there are a few reasons why this step to cut down on pollution and misuse is inadequate.
Problem 1. It is too easy to dump old meds down the toilet.
Problem 2. Having the town maintain a single location that is rarely frequented and requires a special trip, promotes problem 1.
Problem 3. The pollution caused by improperly disposed of prescription drugs is, an economist might note, an external public cost of pharmaceutical, production, distribution and sales.
Since the pollution amelioration cost in the manufacture of drugs is borne by those organizations in the manufacture of drugs, through waste disposal regulation and expense and, presumably passed on, in part, in the price of pharmaceuticals, it seems appropriate that the problem of pollution arising from consumer mis-disposal should be defrayed by the organizations closest to the source of the problem and which is making a profit from the business, i.e. the consumer drug outlets.
Hence, my suggestion is that Massachusetts require all pharmacies to accept back at no charge, and properly dispose of outdated or unused prescription meds. If the pharmacies were responsible just for collecting, safekeeping and delivery to a designated local municipal collection site, such as, in Belmont, the police station, it is hard to see how that would be burdensome and seems that it would be a minor, but appropriate, cost of doing business.
While I have no data whatsoever, it seems, conjecturally at least, that the benefits from such a regulation might be:
Benefit 1. Creating many drop off points.
Benefit 2. Drawing cooperation in the effort to promote proper disposal from those who most often have expired drugs, i.e. people going to drug stores.
Benefit 3. Placing some of the cost burden, albeit a minor part, of pollution prevention on those who, in part, are making a profit from the business.
Benefit 3. Providing an alternative, perhaps not as super convenient as a toilet, but still orders of magnitude more convenient than a single police station drop box.
I would welcome other ideas, thoughts and responses from Will, your staff, the public as well as all corners of the legal pharmaceutical industry.