Convergence Projects – Drug Disposal

This audio story explored new disposal measures for prescription drugs in mid-Missouri. Our story was organically found, reported on and produced by Rosie Belson, Lydia Birt, SongxinXie, Kori Clay and Marlee Baldridge

Safe Drug Disposal Comes in a Bag

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Kristin Merrier, a pharmacist at Whaley’s, puts a Deterra bag into a prescription drug bag at Whaley’s West Side Pharmacy on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Whaley’s provides customers with Deterra bags for free with some of the drugs they sell, mainly short-term prescriptions.

Kristin Merrier, a pharmacist at Whaley’s, hands a prescription to a customer with a Deterra bag inside at Whaley’s West Side Pharmacy on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. ACT Missouri, a not-for-profit corporation promoting drug awareness, distributed the Deterra bags to Whaley’s.

Anita Jurkowski, the Prevention Coordinator at Compass Health Network, arranges Deterra bags at the facility on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Compass Health Network  received 25,000 Deterra bags from ACT Missouri, a not-for-profit corporation that promotes drug awareness, to provide the community a safe way to dispose drugs.

Local Club Distributes Bags

By: Marlee Baldridge, Rosemary Belson, Lydia Birt, Kori Clay and Songxin Xie

If you peered into the medicine cabinet of the average mid-Missourian, chances are you would find a forgotten orange pill bottle sitting in the corner collecting dust. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 59 percent of adults in the U.S. use prescribed medication.

It is not easy to safely dispose of excess prescription medications. The Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles County is helping residents rediscover their shelf space with an initiative to dispose of discarded pills. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals is an international company headquartered in St. Louis. The company contacted the organization to see if they wanted to distribute Deterra bags, which are small bags that neutralize pills and make them safe to throw away.

Drugs that sit in bathroom cabinets pose many different health risks. When ingested, expired medication can be toxic. Leaving drugs in cabinets also makes them available to abuse.

The director of community development at the Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles County, Jeanette A. Keochner, said pill control has been an issue on their radar for a while because of the potential for misuse.

“I had a person that called me very concerned that they had some leftover medication that was in their house from taking care of an elderly parent,” Keochner said.

After the community member’s parents passed away, Keochner said, they didn’t feel safe leaving the pills in their house because they were concerned about the possibility of a break in. The community member contacted the Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles County to pick up Deterra bags to properly dispose of the pills without having to wait for a sponsored take-back day.

Prescription drugs cause problems when improperly disposed. When flushed down the toilet, pills and liquids can seep into groundwater.

“Anytime we don’t dispose of drugs properly, we stand a chance of actually getting in our drinking water system,” said Eric Fuchs, sourcewater protection specialist at the Missouri Rural Water Association. “And current treatment methods do not remove pharmaceuticals or drugs out of our drinking water.”

Deterra bags are a more environmentally friendly alternative.

To help St. Charles County community members dispose of their discarded medication in a process that is both eco-friendly and efficient, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals directly donated 10,000 Deterra bags to the Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles County. As of Sept. 26, 2016, the Boys & Girls Club of St. Charles County had distributed 5,000 bags. The organization shared the bags with local school districts in an effort to extend their reach.

“We are reaching out to the schools and so forth to ask them to pass them on. Schools are giving them out to kids to give to their parents, that as well as parent organizations [are] receiving them [the bags],” said Keochner.

The increase in distribution seems to have increased the demand for the bags in St. Charles County. Keochner said the community has taken notice. Recently she was at an event passing out bags on behalf of the organization and people were requesting additional bags to give to family members.

“They were willing to take care of themselves but also share them with others,” Keochner said. “That’s a wonderful thing to have in the community.”

In fact, bag requests have become so frequent that the organization has started to conserve bags to ensure their supply will last them until their next shipment. The shipment scheduled to arrive Oct. 5, 2016 will be the final installment of the original 10,000 bag donation from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. After the supply runs out, the organization hopes to reach out to Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and request another donation.