FLORENCE – When the federal government changed its rules to allow pharmacies to become collection points for unneeded prescription drugs in 2014, Florence Community Pharmacy owner Paul Brand decided that was something he needed to do.
As a pharmacist, Brand believes that he’s a steward of prescriptive medicines and doesn’t want to see any of those medications end up in the wrong hands.
A survey in 2013 found that nearly 70 percent of the drugs used by people abusing prescription medications came from a friend or a family member.
In March, he and his wife, LaVone, officially launched the Florence Pharmacy Safe Medication Disposal Program. Already, the pharmacy has collected more than 35 pounds of unused, unwanted or expired medications.
The success of their program has not gone unnoticed.
On Thursday, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox traveled to the Florence Pharmacy to launch a new initiative to help other pharmacies in the state replicate Brand’s prescription drug disposal program.
The Montana Pharmacy Safe Medication Disposal Initiative will offer up to 10 grants of $2,000 each to pharmacies willing to place a prescription medication disposal setup at their site.
“Removing leftover and expired medications from our homes and responsibly disposing of them makes our communities and our families safer,” Fox said. “Some pharmacies, like Florence Pharmacy, are stepping up and making that an easier task by providing take-back programs in their stores. This grant will allow even more pharmacies to offer this free public safety service at their locations throughout the state.”
All Montana pharmacies can apply, including the few that already have a prescription medication disposal program in place. There is no restriction on the size of pharmacy or location.
Grant recipients can use the funding to pay for the purchase of a collection box, signage, destruction of collected materials, advertising or any other medication disposal related expense.
The Florence Pharmacy currently pays a company to lease the box where the medications are placed and to dispose of the unwanted medication drugs.
Since pharmacies profit from the sales of prescription medications, Brand said he believes that the cost he incurs for providing a collection site for unwanted medications is his part in making the community safer.
“I feel that we have that responsibility,” Brand said.
His customers have agreed.
“People love it,” he said. “They think it is a really good idea. We have had a lot of positive feedback.”
Before Brand offered the prescription medication disposal service, the only other place people could take their unwanted mediations for disposal in the Bitterroot Valley were police stations in Stevensville and Hamilton.
While those provide a good option, some people don’t feel comfortable bringing those medications to a drop-off box operated by law enforcement. For others, those two other locations simply weren’t convenient.
Brand hopes other pharmacies across the state will consider creating their own medication disposal program.
Considering that there are about 266 pharmacies in Montana, Brand said if all of those collected an amount equal to what his business has over the first four months, about four tons of unwanted medication would be properly disposed of by now.
“The potential is huge,” he said.
Pharmacies interested in learning more can access the Attorney General’s website at dojmt.gov/consumer/prescriptiondrugabuse/pharmacy. The grant applications can be found on that site.
Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on August 27. Grant recipients will be announced by Sept. 4.
“Pharmacists are absolutely vital in combating prescription drug abuse in our state,” Fox said. “They verify the legitimacy of prescriptions, water for possible diversion of controlled substances, and monitor the Montana Prescription Drug Registry for potential doctor shopping. Grant funding from the Montana Pharmacy Safe Medication Disposal Initiative will give them one more weapon in the fight to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Consumers wishing to safely dispose of their prescription medications can find a law enforcement location in the state with a drug take-back box at www.dojmt.gov/consumer/prescriptiondrugabuse/operation-medicine-cabinet or a DEA-authorized collector location at https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e2s1 .