It's that time of the year again when colds and coughs start to go around. Hopefully you are well as you read this, but let's say you have started to feel a little run down with the beginnings of a cold. You go to your medicine cabinet and find some cold medicine, only to find that it has expired.
What do you do with the expired medication? I know a lot of people would flush them or throw them in the trash.
About 3% of over-the-counter medications are not used before it expires. And some studies have found that up to 40% of Americans have expired medication in their household. It ends up in sewers and eventually the water supply; or it can make its way to landfills if thrown in the trash, essentially posing a health risk to people and wildlife.
Why not participate take a "Medicine Chest Challenge" instead of tossing your old OTC or prescription medications? Find a drop off location here, or if one is not near you, you can call the city or county household trash and recycling service in your region to find out if a program is available in your area.
There are also community-based programs popping up around the country that help reclaim old medication so that it can be incinerated or otherwise disposed of safely. Collection is also being established at pharmacies, where people can bring in their old medication so that it can then be sent to a disposal center.
Pharmaceutical companies and retailers who sell the medications are committed to taking expired items off of the shelves and have reverse logistics in place for this. About 3-4% of medical products leaving pharmaceutical warehouses comes back as a return for disposal or redistribution, according to the Healthcare Distribution Management Association.
Some important considerations for the reverse logistics of returned medications include security of the medications, keeping costs down through technology and automation, and tracing the returns from the initial interception down to their final disposition. Supply chain visibility is also essential for any pharmaceutical supply chain including reverse logistics, as counterfeiting and lost or stolen products continue to be a major concern for this industry.
With the use of e-pedigree in the pharmaceutical industry, reverse logistics for these medical products should involve the use of barcode tracking and identification, as well as easy product identification.
The best practices and benchmarks of medical reverse logistics will continue to develop, especially as community-based programs are created to address the environmental issues and concerns of medication disposal.
Individually, we can help by properly disposing of these products, so remember to clear out the expired medications you have in your household and be a winner in the Medicine Chest Challenge.