Nearly half of all Americans aged 55 and above take one prescription drug, and it is estimated that older Americans represent approximately 25 to 30% of all prescribed medications, according to a press release from Medline, a medical product supplier. Today’s long-term care facilities have three common ways of disposing of unused or expired medications: flushing down the toilet, mixing with kitty litter and crushing it up. While community take back programs and national laws have been enacted to get facilities thinking differently about their practices, it still remains a major public health issue.

To help streamline the drug disposal process, one nurse has teamed up with Medline to introduce the Drug Buster medication disposal system to the long-term care market. The product uses activated charcoal to quickly neutralize the active chemicals in non-hazardous medication such as capsules, lozenges, narcotics, as well as transdermal patches, making them safe to dispose of in the trash. Available in three sizes, the 4 ounce bottle holds up to 50 pills, the 16 ounce bottle holds approximately 300 pills and the 64 ounce bottle can hold nearly 1,500 pills.

Drug Buster was created by Sherry Day, a nurse who has 20-plus years of long-term care leadership experience and has personally experienced many challenges associated with drug disposal.

“From my personal experience, there’s a lack of safe and time-efficient options for clinicians. I wanted to create a product that would help alleviate common pain points associated with disposing of unused or expired medications,” says Day. “With Medline’s expertise in the long-term care market, I’m confident we’ll be able to reach a large audience of nurses and provide them with a unique solution that helps them spend more time focusing on their patients.”

Dawn Nimtz, director of nursing at Lasata Care Center in Cedarburg, Wisc. has been using Drug Buster for about a year. As the primary staff member who disposes of medication, the process formerly consisted of using a coffee bean grinder and kitty litter to break down medication.

“I used to wait until I had a nice collection of medication so I could dispose of them all at once. I love Drug Buster because it’s so easy and saves a lot of time. I simply pop the meds out of the bubble pads, put them into a cup and pour them into the Drug Buster bottle,” says Nimtz.

Drug Disposal Trends

In an effort to understand what our nation’s caregivers are experiencing with drug disposal, Medline recently surveyed nurses at long-term care facilities. Here’s what they had to say:

  • 70% disposed of unused or expired medication 1-2 times a week
  • 95% have a drug disposal policy
  • Mixing medication with undesirable substances like kitty litter or coffee grounds is the most common drug disposal practice
  • 56% of respondents said drug disposal is too time intensive for skilled staff.
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