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March 10, 2004
For immediate release

Take It Back! - Program Allows Islanders to Dispose of Old Medications Safely -

Health and Social Services

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Islanders with expired or unused pharmaceuticals no longer have to wait for a cleanup campaign to safely dispose of them. The Province of Prince Edward Island, in partnership with the PEI Pharmaceutical Association and Island Waste Management Corporation, has established a permanent take-back program that allows Islanders to take unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications to their local pharmacy at any time for environmentally safe disposal.

Minister of Environment and Energy Jamie Ballem said the program is another significant step in protecting both human health and the environment.

“While we don’t know a great deal about the environmental impact when pharmaceuticals are thrown in the trash or washed down the drain, this is an area of increasing concern, especially when you consider that more than 1,300 kilograms (3,000 pounds) of old medications were collected in PEI during the cleanup campaign last year,” said Minister Ballem. “Clearly, the best option is to dispose of old medications in an environmentally-responsible manner and I’m pleased that we are able to offer Islanders an easy way to do that.”

Under the new take-back program, pharmacies province wide will serve as drop-off points, safely storing products that Islanders return to their counters. The pharmacies will then deliver the products to one of the Waste Watch Drop-Off Centers, at which time Island Waste Management Corporation will arrange for the pharmaceuticals to be disposed of at a licensed hazardous waste disposal facility off-Island.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Lamont Sweet says many Islanders will benefit from the new program, and encourages people to use the service. “It’s a highly cost-effective and safe way to dispose of these items. Almost everyone seems to end up with expired or leftover pharmaceutical products in their homes. These products aren’t safe to have around. They become unstable over time and, if taken accidentally by a child or even an adult, present a significant health risk.”

Fred Martin, Executive Director of the PEI Pharmaceutical Association, saw locating the collection points within pharmacies as a logical step. “Pharmacists play a key role in informing Islanders of the safe use and storage of medication so we are pleased to offer this service to our customers. It provides another opportunity for us, as health care providers, to stress to people the importance of taking medication as prescribed and keeping it out of reach of children.”

The pharmaceuticals take-back program is free of charge for Islanders. The pharmacies will collect and deliver the unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications as part of their quality service to Islanders, and Island Waste Management Corporation will pay for the safe disposal of the pharmaceuticals. Gerry Moore, IWMC Chief Executive Officer, said he is pleased with this initiative and is encouraged by the level of support from key partners. “PEI is a national leader in waste management. Enhancements such as Take it Back build upon the strength of the Waste Watch program to help ensure a safer environment for all Islanders.”

In addition to Island pharmacies, pharmaceuticals, as well as other household hazardous waste, may be taken directly to any of the IWMC Drop-Off Centers for safe disposal. For more information, call the Department of Environment and Energy at 368-5047 or Island Waste Management Corporation at 1-888-280-8111.

Tips for Safe Storage and Disposal of Pharmaceuticals

-Keep medicine away from children and pets, out of sight and out of reach.

-Keep medicines in a cool dry place away from direct light – a good suggestion is in a box that can be locked or a high shelf (the cabinet in the bathroom is the worst place to keep your medicines – it gets too damp and too warm).

-Keep medicines in their original labelled container and keep the cap closed.

-Do not store medicines with food or household products.

-Go through all the medicines you have at home on a regular basis and remove:

- prescription medications that are old or that you no longer take;

- expired over-the-counter medications including cough/cold, pain, first aid, vitamin and herbal products;

- medicines no longer in their original containers or with labels that can't be read; and

- medications that have changed colour, smell or taste.

-Never dispose of pharmaceuticals by washing them down the drain, placing them in your compost cart, waste cart or blue bags, or flushing them down the toilet. Return them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

Media Contact: Sara Underwood
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