Take your medicine! Just be sure, you’re taking the good kind.

Recently, the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan launched a public awareness campaign to help address the harmful effects of medication misuse. The province-wide campaign encourages Saskatchewan residents to return all unused and expired medication to a local pharmacy. The Government of Saskatchewan is providing $350,000 toward the program.

“We are pleased to support the Pharmacy Association’s efforts to keep Saskatchewan residents safer,” mental health and addictions, seniors and rural and remote health minister Everett Hindley said. “Developing a provincial safe medication disposal program is an important part of our suicide prevention plan, as removing unused prescription drugs limits access to a means of suicide.”

Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan is the provincial government’s plan to address and prevent suicide. Government and its partners are building on it to improve delivery of suicide prevention programs in the province.

“Most prescription medications can be dangerous if not taken as directed, or if taken by someone other than the intended patient,” Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan CEO Michael Fougere said. “Medications that are safe for adults may in fact be fatal for children, pets or even seniors.”

Across the country, medication return programs have proven to be a safe way of removing expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from homes, thereby reducing the opportunity for others to find and intentionally use or accidentally take the unused medicine.

“Pharmacists play a vital role in counselling patients on the use of medications, and they are located in more than 125 communities right across the province, so it makes sense that these medications be taken back to pharmacies for safe disposal,” Fougere said.

This was echoed by pharmacist Geoff Barton of The Medicine Shoppe, which is located on Centre Street in Meadow Lake.

“In general, expired medications may not be as effective as they once were,” Barton said. “I know a lot of consumers keep expired medication around ‘just in case’, but that’s like keeping old batteries around just in case. Pharmacies dispose of expired medication in special biohazard containers, which get collected and disposed of by BioMed or another biohazard waste management company. Expired medications returned to the pharmacy are kept out of wastewater and landfills. Also, medications can look like candies to kids. Removing expired medications from the home reduces the chance of accidental poisoning.  Rather than buying the huge ‘value pack’ bottles, consumers can buy small packages of necessary ‘what if’ medications like pain relievers and cough syrups.”

Pharmacists will accept the return of any unused medication. They ask individuals returning medications to scratch out any patient identification on the medication bottles, place all returned medication into a clear plastic bag, and return it the pharmacy. Pharmacists will then place the returned medication into special medication disposal boxes, which are safely destroyed on a regular basis.
The public awareness campaign includes billboards, radio and newspaper ads, and posters.

by Phil Ambroziak