Health Benefits

Best Practices for Disposing of Unused or Outdated Prescription Medications

" "

On October 26, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day provides a safe and anonymous way to dispose of prescription drugs.

Like many CalPERS members, you may have expired or unused medications that should be disposed of safely and securely. These medications are a public safety issue that may lead to accidental or inappropriate use in the home by family members or friends.

If thrown away, these medications can be found by those who may be seeking them. If flushed down the toilet, they may eventually contaminate our oceans and water supply. Here are some best practices with unused or outdated prescription medications:

  • Every six months, take advantage of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and anonymous means of disposing of prescription drugs. If you prefer to dispose of your prescription drugs at any time, please check the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Diversion Control Division website to locate a collection site near you or call your local law enforcement department.
  • Pharmacy take-back programs are a secure and environmentally sound way to dispose of expired medications. Ongoing drop-off programs are usually available at participating pharmacies. Simply bring in your expired or unwanted medication—it’s best to call or look online ahead of time to verify your pharmacy’s participation. You can search pharmacy disposal locations by pharmacy name, city, or ZIP code at the California State Board of Pharmacy, an informative website especially for members with mail order prescriptions who don’t have a regular brick-and-mortar pharmacy.
  • Kaiser Permanente recommends locating a Drug Take-Back Kiosk at participating Kaiser pharmacies. The Drug Take-Back Kiosk is a secure bin display that gives members and others in the community a safe option to responsibly dispose of unused, unwanted, or expired medications. The kiosks are available for public use during regular pharmacy hours. If the kiosk is full, members should let the pharmacy attendant know, and ask for a pre-paid mailer to send medicine in for safe disposal, at no cost.
  • Finally, a Deterra Kit contains a pouch filled with a water-soluble inner pod that contains activated carbon. Once the medication is placed in the pouch, add warm water to dissolve the inner pod and release the activated carbon. This process renders the medication inert and non-retrievable, a safe medication disposal option. The free kit is available to members who have OptumRx as their pharmacy benefit manager. Call Member Services at (855) 505-8110 (TTY: 711) to request a free Deterra Kit.

Using one of these means to dispose of unused or outdated prescription medications is environmentally friendly and will ensure peace of mind.