Pharmacies leave customers hanging when it comes to disposing of antibiotics and opioids

December 30, 2019

Proper disposal of leftover medication, particularly antibiotics and opioids, can help reduce antibiotic resistance, prevent children from being poisoned and stop the misuse of addiction-forming drugs.

But a telephone survey conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco found that fewer than half of California pharmacies provided disposal instructions meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, and just 10 percent followed the FDA's preferred recommendation to take back unused medications from their customers.

Over a two-month period in early 2018 researchers posing as parents of children who had recently had surgery spoke to employees at nearly 900 pharmacies in California and asked them what to do with two leftover medications: the antibiotic Bactrim (sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim), and liquid Hycet (hydrocodone-acetaminophen), a pain reliever containing an opioid compound.

Neither medication should be left in the medicine cabinet, since the antibiotics could be taken improperly for subsequent infections they cannot cure, contributing to antibiotic resistance, and opioids can fall into the wrong hands.

In the absence of a takeback program, the FDA says antibiotics should be mixed with an unpalatable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter, and disposed of in a sealed container in the trash to keep them from getting into the water supply or inadvertently ingested. The FDA recommends that opioids be flushed down a toilet, since people may otherwise find and accidentally ingest or intentionally abuse them, even when they've been mixed with an unpalatable substance and thrown into the trash.

Overall, just 47 percent of pharmacies gave the correct instructions on how to dispose of antibiotics, and only 34 percent gave correct instructions for opioids.

"This clearly points to the need for better dissemination of information on proper medication disposal," said Hillary Copp, an associate professor of urology at UCSF and the senior author of the study, published Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, in Annals of Internal Medicine. "The FDA has specific instructions on how to dispose of these medications, and the American Pharmacists Association has adopted this as their standard. Yet it's not being given to the consumer correctly the majority of the time."

Copp stressed that improving disposal practices will require both better efforts to educate patients, and those who advise them, as well as expanded disposal programs to ensure that patients have a place to take unused medication. At UCSF, Copp said, physicians are working to uniformly incorporate disposal instructions into the information that patients receive when they are discharged.

"A pharmacy is a place where medications are dispensed so it is natural for people to look to this same location for advice on how to dispose of unused medications," Copp said. However, she added, "pharmacies should not be solely responsible for providing proper disposal information. Managing leftover medications is a complex problem that should be addressed from multiple angles."
-end-
Authors: Rachel Selekman, MD, MAS, Children's National Hospital, Washington, DC; Thomas Gaither, MD, MAS, Zachary Kornberg, BA, Aron Liaw, MD, and Hillary L. Copp, MD, MS, of UCSF.

Funding: None

Disclosures: No conflicts of interest reported.

About UCSF: The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF's primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area. Learn more at https://www.ucsf.edu, or see our Fact Sheet.

University of California - San Francisco

Related Antibiotics Articles from Brightsurf:

Insights in the search for new antibiotics
A collaborative research team from the University of Oklahoma, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Merck & Co. published an opinion article in the journal, Nature Chemical Biology, that addresses the gap in the discovery of new antibiotics.

New tricks for old antibiotics
The study published in the journal Immunity reveals that tetracyclines (broad spectre antibiotics), by partially inhibiting cell mitochondria activity, induce a compensatory response on the organism that decreases tissue damage caused during infection.

Benefits, risks seen with antibiotics-first for appendicitis
Antibiotics are a good choice for some patients with appendicitis but not all, according to study results published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

How antibiotics interact
Understanding bottleneck effects in the translation of bacterial proteins can lead to a more effective combination of antibiotics / study in 'Nature Communications'

Are antivitamins the new antibiotics?
Antibiotics are among the most important discoveries of modern medicine and have saved millions of lives since the discovery of penicillin almost 100 years ago.

Hygiene reduces the need for antibiotics by up to 30%
A new paper published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), finds improved everyday hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, reduces the risk of common infections by up to 50%, reducing the need for antibiotics, by up to 30%.

Antibiotics: City dwellers and children take the most
City dwellers take more antibiotics than people in rural areas; children and the elderly use them more often than middle-aged people; the use of antibiotics decreases as education increases, but only in rich countries: These are three of the more striking trends identified by researchers of the NRW Forschungskolleg ''One Health and Urban Transformation'' at the University of Bonn.

Metals could be the link to new antibiotics
Compounds containing metals could hold the key to the next generation of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of global antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics from the sea
The team led by Prof. Christian Jogler of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, has succeeded in cultivating several dozen marine bacteria in the laboratory -- bacteria that had previously been paid little attention.

Antibiotics not necessary for most toothaches, according to new ADA guideline
The American Dental Association (ADA) announced today a new guideline indicating that in most cases, antibiotics are not recommended for toothaches.

Read More: Antibiotics News and Antibiotics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.