- The Iowa Board of Pharmacy plans to install 50 metal lockboxes in pharmacies across the state for prescription and over-the-counter drug disposal in an effort to increase proper recycling of unused medications, as reported by Radio Iowa.
- The state-funded program ensures that once boxes are full, the pharmaceuticals are taken to an incinerator. This alternative intends to reduce potential groundwater contamination from drugs that are flushed down the drain.
- This new round of box installation — expected to be done by July 1 — expands an existing program. Once the 50 new boxes are installed, there should be at least one lockbox in 93 of Iowa's 99 counties.
Drug take-back programs have become overwhelmingly popular nationwide, especially since early 2016 when Massachusetts became the first state to require drug companies to offer safe disposal options for pharmaceuticals. The primary reason for this is to ensure waterways and drinking water are not contaminated by unused medications, however a growing crisis surrounding opiods and other narcotics has increased an industrywide focus on pharmaceutical recycling.
"We do a lot of drug take-backs already, because a lot of pharmaceutical companies want assured destruction. They don't want their out-of-spec or out-of-date medications going into landfills or other places where they can get pulled out. You think about the opioid epidemic in the U.S. and so that's driving a lot of this," said Covanta CEO Stephen Jones in a recent interview with Waste Dive. Covanta is one of many private sector companies working to combat improper drug disposal, along with local governments.
As with any recycling program, infrastructure is not effective without public education. While Iowa continues to increase the amount of metal lockboxes available statewide, it is also necessary for officials to work with participating pharmacies to advertise resources and educate medical patients about program benefits. Last year, in an effort to combat dangerous disposal of hazardous drug paraphernalia, the Mid Michigan Waste Authority launched a "Be Smart with Sharps" campaign to teach needle-users how to safely toss used sharps. A similar campaign that targets pharmaceutical recipients could push Iowa and other states with take-back programs toward increased collection targets.