Real-World Learning

Helping Community Members Safely Dispose of Prescription Drugs

Students and faculty in the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy disposed of more than 160 pounds of unneeded medications during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Colorful pills scattered from white plastic pill bottle on blue background

by Diane Holliday

For the 9th year in a row, students and faculty in Saint Joseph’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy participated in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) 23rd National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The initiative, which first began in 2010, offers the American public the opportunity to safely dispose of expired, unused or unwanted prescription medications.

In the wrong hands, these medications may be susceptible to theft, drug-related violence, misuse or addiction. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 107,000 drug-related overdose deaths in 2021.

“Drug diversion [medications obtained or used illegally] is a huge problem,” says Scott Greene PCPS ’92, USP ’14 (MS), USP ’21 (PhD), assistant dean of experiential programs. “This program prevents medications from getting in the hands of younger children in the home, from theft or crimes, and also prevents people from taking any medication they’re not supposed to.”

It’s not just intentional misuse that’s the problem, adds pharmacy student Paulida Tes ’23 (PharmD).

“Medications may be replaced with other ones, dosages may change and, if you read too quickly, you can easily miss that,” she says. “So, Drug Take Back Day is also to help the safety of the patient in making sure they’re taking the right drug at the right dose.”

Medications may be replaced with other ones, dosages may change and, if you read too quickly, you can easily miss that.

Paulida Tes ’23 (PharmD)

Saint Joseph’s University was one of over 4,000 sites nationwide to participate in the event at its University City location. Once collected, the drugs were retrieved by a DEA representative and incinerated, which keeps the medications out of local waterways.

In addition to collecting the medications, students and faculty were also available to answer pharmacy-related queries, including questions and concerns about flu shots and COVID-19 boosters.

“It’s also a great opportunity to counsel patients on the importance of adherence and using pillboxes, or knowing how to organize their medications and where to store them,” says Tes.

Students from their first through last years in Saint Joseph’s pharmacy program participated in the event, which included creating educational flyers to help promote the initiative.

Greene says he plans to add a second location on Hawk Hill when the program returns in the spring.

Learn more about Saint Joseph’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.