Medication Disposal Program Suspended

Group Health has suspended its pioneering medication take-back program and has removed the receptacles from our pharmacies. Patients are encouraged to use other community resources, such as the Take Back Your Meds program, to dispose of unused or unwanted medication. Police and sheriff's offices often offer this service.

Group Health's program began in 2006 as a pilot program to see how the public would respond, and if it was a practical way to keep unwanted medications from being diverted to others or seeping into the environment through flushing or landfills.

Since its inception, the program has been successful. To date, more than 100,000 pounds of unwanted medications have been safely removed from circulation, according Shirley Reitz, director of clinical pharmacy services.

"We're proud that our medication take-back and disposal program was the basis for new federal regulations aimed at encouraging similar programs in retail, clinic, hospital, and treatment facility pharmacies nationwide," said Reitz, who testified before the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2012 to share Group Health's experience. The new DEA rules will allow pharmacies to take back a broader range of materials, including narcotics.

"We've also learned over the past eight years that Group Health can't be the only pharmacy system receiving unwanted medications," added Reitz. "By suspending our program, we hope to give the community a chance to recognize the need and respond in a meaningful way. As we have so many times in the past, Group Health will actively share our knowledge and experience as we address this issue."

No date has been set to resume the medication disposal program.

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