WASHINGTON –Through a grant awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the University of Maine’s Center on Aging has completed the first statewide mail-back pilot program for managing pharmaceutical waste from consumers. Studies show that pharmaceuticals are present in our nation’s waterbodies and that certain drugs may cause ecological harm. EPA is currently evaluating the potential risks associated with pharmaceuticals and personal care products on public health and aquatic life.
”This pilot is important because it has filled research gaps about the volumes and types of medications that can end up in our waters, and affect our ecosystems,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “The pilot also gave residents a way to serve as environmental stewards to reduce water pollution.”
The program included the use of mailers to return unused and unwanted medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, from households.
Maine Care (Maine’s Medicaid program) established a limit for certain drugs on the quantity that can be filled with an initial prescription. This policy is targeted at reducing the supply and accumulation of unused medications and to prevent pollution. The Maine legislature also recognized the value of the take-back pilot and enacted legislation to continue the program for an additional two years. As part of the EPA grant, the University of Maine’s Center on Aging developed a handbook on the project and collected data on the type and amount of unused medications.
The grant is part of EPA’s larger efforts to protect the health of older adults and encourage older adults to engage in environmental stewardship in their communities. Older adults were actively involved in the design and implementation of the safe medicine disposal; for Maine pilot program.