Letters: Dealing with leftover medication

Posted: September 21, 2010

ON SATURDAY, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration will be taking a major stride to save lives. The DEA, with local governments, communities, public-health agencies and law enforcement partners will be pursuing a nationwide prescription-drug take-back initiative.

We hope this day starts to rid our rivers and streams and drinking water of pharmaceuticals. The Philadelphia water department says that traces of more than 50 prescription drugs are found in our drinking water because of the ways the drugs are disposed of, not to mention that danger from unauthorized use.

Inspiration for this effort came after we lost our son Timmy to a fatal accidental drug interaction. It was a combination of medicine that a doctor legitimately prescribed and a misguided adult's doling out of leftover medicine. Who knew it could prove fatal?

After our son's death, Paul Ritter, an Illinois environmental teacher, started a program that has grown into a national model for drug giveback and prescription-drug education. This program is called P2D2. (See www.p2d2program.org.)

How do we dispose of leftover medicines once they're no longer needed? Flush them down the toilet or throw them out with the trash? Families like ours, and Ritter and his community, as well as organizations like Save a Star (www.saveastar.org) have made it our mission to encourage people to develop ways to dispose of potentially harmful drugs.

On May 24, Timmy's birthday, Sen. Robert P. Casey shepherded a resolution through the Senate calling on all states to develop giveback programs. (For my testimony on "Drug Waste and Disposal: When Prescriptions Turn to Poison" - see aging.senate.gov.)

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has sponsored a resolution here in Philadelphia and our city will soon put a disposal program into place to curb this epidemic.

Bernie A. Strain Jr., Coordinator

Pennsylvania P2D2 Program

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