Discard your unwanted drugs safely at Essentia Health pharmacies

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Essentia Health wants to keep unused or expired drugs out of the wrong hands, out of the landfill, and out of our rivers and streams.

Now, anyone can safely and anonymously drop off prescription and over-the-counter medications at any Essentia Health retail pharmacy with the addition of big, bright blue drop-off boxes.

"Currently, a big concern of ours now is drugs getting into the wrong hands," said Tim Cernohous, an Essentia Health pharmacist in a news release. "Medications in grandma's medicine cabinet go missing, and show up inside the walls of a high school."

It's not just the crime of stealing and selling drugs that concerns Cernohous and his team, medication mistakes can often occur when there are multiple pill boxes in a medicine cabinet.

"When medication changes happen, patients frequently have two medications that are designed to treat the same condition, but should not be taken together and a mix-up can easily happen between the old medication and the newly prescribed medication," Cernohous said. "The best way to avoid this is by safely disposing of any medications that are no longer needed, eliminating the chance of a potentially serious mix-up."

And medications expire and can actually have a detrimental effect on your health if ingested past their date. Now, people can get rid of their drugs safely, by removing identifying information, walking into an Essentia Health pharmacy, opening the blue box door, and dropping them in. They don't need to be a patient at Essentia to use this service.

"We have installed the MedSafe household disposal kiosks at all of our retail pharmacies," said Sandy Mastaw, who coordinates pharmacy operations. "The contents of the boxes are emptied by a licensed disposer and incinerated, keeping them out of the wrong hands, or disposed of in the wrong way."

The drug drop-off boxes are for household use only. So far, the program has been in place for a few weeks and already Cernohous and Mastaw are hearing very positive feedback.

"We believe this is just one more way our pharmacy department is having a meaningful presence in the communities we serve," Mastaw said.