Military Hospitals Start Drug Take-Back Program

Filling a pharmacy prescription.

Military families, troops and retirees now can return unused medication to pharmacies at military treatment facilities as part of a new drug take-back effort.

In the past, prescription drugs could not be returned to those pharmacies, although some hospitals did run periodic take-back programs in partnership with other federal agencies, Defense Department officials said.

The program, announced this month by the Defense Health Agency, requires pharmacies to have drug disposal bins or mail-in envelopes available to customers, according to a fact sheet.

Those items are then mailed to a contracted collection site and destroyed, usually by burning, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Military family advocates say the change gives military users an easy way to get rid of unwanted medication or controlled substances so that they can't be abused or potentially harm the environment.

It is not uncommon for military families to find a stash of forgotten prescriptions when they prepare to relocate as part of a military move, said Karen Ruedisueli, a deputy director of government relations at the National Military Family Association. The take-back option could make life just that much easier.

"We really view it as a positive," she said. "This just makes it easier for military families to do the best possible thing with their leftover prescription drugs."

Only prescriptions in powder, liquids under four ounces, cream or pill form can be returned, officials said. The program is unable to accept illegal drugs, needles or other chemicals. Drugs also must be returned either in the take-back bin or placed in an envelope by the customer, according to officials.

"Per DEA rules, pharmacists and other pharmacy staff cannot accept drugs from a patient to dispose of. They must physically put the drugs in the collection bin or envelope," the fact sheet states.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at

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