Recycling Unused Medicines to Save Money and Lives

David Bornstein
March 20, 2015
New York Times
 
“Throughout my entire nursing career, it’s something I‘ve done,” said Kirchner, who has been a nurse for 21 years. “And each time I would think: ‘It’s such a waste. There are people out there who have to choose whether to buy medications or buy groceries.’”
 
Lots of people, in fact. In 2012, studies indicate, about one in four American adults — perhaps 50 million people — failed to fill a prescription they needed because of the cost. Among adults who were uninsured, the figure was 43 percent. (PDF, p. 28).
 
For older adults, who take four to five medicines on average per week, this is a crisis. Sadly, one in five seniors reports cutting back on basics like food or heat to afford prescription drugs. This is dangerous. Those with cardiovascular disease who said they took less medicine than directed due to cost were 50 percent more likely to experience angina, strokes or non-fatal heart attacks. For many others, cutting back on medicine led to faster health declines, increased hospitalizations and premature death. (PDF, pp. 7-8).
 
And yet, each year, hospitals, pharmacies, manufacturers and nursing homes send billions of dollars worth of medicines to be destroyed.