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Health & Medical

MercyOne Newton Medical offers drop box for expired medications

MercyOne Newton Medical Center Pharmacy Manager Phil Schieffer stands next to the specially constructed medication drop box in the main lobby of the hospital.
MercyOne Newton Medical Center Pharmacy Manager Phil Schieffer stands next to the specially constructed medication drop box in the main lobby of the hospital.

Community members now have a safe way to dispose of leftover prescription and over-the-counter medications. MercyOne Newton Medical Center has recently installed a specially constructed medication drop box in the main lobby of the hospital, located at 204 N. Fourth Ave. E.

“MercyOne Newton is currently one of only a few locations in Jasper County that help people to safely dispose of their own medications,” said Phil Schieffer, MercyOne Pharmacy Manager. “We’re excited about the direct and measurable impact this will have on the safety of our community.”

Among the risks of keeping expired medications on hand:

• Over time, medications degrade and are no longer effective; using these medications can lead to diminished efficacy

• Outdated medicines stored alongside current prescriptions can lead to increased risk of accidental mix-up or overdose

• Children and/or pets can access medicines incorrectly disposed of in regular trash

• As the community battles prescription opioid problems, decreasing access to a controlled substance is key

Numbers released from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that, between 1999 and 2016, drug overdose led to the deaths of more than 630,000 people. Of the deaths in 2016, about two-thirds had opioids involved. In less than 20 years, health-care experts have seen a fivefold increase in the number of opioid-related overdose deaths. More than 100 Americans die each day, on average, from opioid overdose.

“We’re excited about the direct and measurable impact this drop box will have on the safety of our community,” Schieffer said.

The box, which was made possible through funds from the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, is a metal receptacle that is secured to the floor and is under continuous camera monitoring. Pharmacy staff are responsible for emptying the box when it is full, and they are the only personnel with access to the box and its contents.

Disposal is limited to prescription (both controlled substances and non-controlled substances) or over-the-counter medications brought in by a patient or patient representative (such as a family member). Regulations require that staff cannot dispose of medications on behalf of a patient or patient representative. Disposal must be performed by the patient or patient representative.

Items that are not to be disposed of in the box include needles, lancets, test strips, biological waste, aerosols, commercial waste, or illicit drugs.

"We are so pleased to start this program here at MercyOne Newton," Schieffer said, "and we hope that it will provide for a safer Jasper County."

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