MedSafe - Safe and Convenient Disposal for Old Medications

MedSafeThe University of Kansas Hospital is helping people dispose of expired and unused medications safely and conveniently – and keep them out of the wrong hands.

The MedSafe service features secure, shiny blue containers at the hospital's retail pharmacy locations at the main campus and Westwood Campus. 

Secured with two locks, the containers can be used for most old and unneeded drugs. People can even leave those medications in the original packaging with the personal information still intact.

"It's one of the newer services in Pharmacy we're really excited about," said Brandon Walker, PharmD, the hospital's Retail Pharmacy operations manager. "Until now there hasn't been a great option for disposing of unused medications."

Flushing them away or throwing them in the trash pose environmental risks, he notes.

The new service addresses a vital public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are susceptible to misuse. Studies also show a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Hospitals historically have been restricted from offering medication disposal services, due to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration regulations. But after filing for a change of status with the DEA, The University of Kansas Hospital began offering the MedSafe program in November of 2015.

Response has been extremely positive from patients, families and even staff, who frequently field patients' questions about what to do with such drugs, Walker said.

In fact, Pharmacy had planned to empty the main campus MedSafe container every three months, but staff now empty it monthly because of its popularity. So far they've disposed of more than 475 pounds of medications from both sites.

Our hospital remains the only healthcare facility in the area offering the service, though at least one retail pharmacy chain has started a similar program.

The MedSafe containers are available during Pharmacy operating hours. They can be used for any medication, including controlled drugs. However, any liquid containers of 4 ounces or more should be placed in a plastic baggie. And for safety reasons, the system won't accept sharps (such as needles), batteries or aerosol containers (such as inhalers).