City to collect old meds

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2010

Didn't use all of your prescription? Have old medicine sitting on a shelf? The City and Borough of Juneau will take them off your hands Saturday for proper disposal.

Mayor Bruce Botelho, who is also a former Alaska attorney general, said he'd been aware of a medication round-up going on in several states, including Utah and Vermont. He saw the successful endeavors by his former colleagues in bringing statewide collections and felt this was a worthwhile project.

One of Botelho's concerns is people having old medications sitting around. He said one of his own family members had a tendency to collect or save any prescription they'd ever had. Two issues stem from that - concern for self-prescribing and for theft.

"As I got into it, there are concerns on a statewide basis," he said, adding the primary concern is Oxycodone for law enforcement.

"There's a broader public health concern, not only making sure that prescription medications are away from small children, but also being able to dispose of any remaining items so they don't become abused somewhere else."

Another concern is disposal and people not wanting pharmaceuticals in public waterways.

"The typical methodology has been to simply be flushed down the toilet," Botelho said. "They end up being recycled into the system. We're creating an alternative for folks who want to be conscientious, who want to protect their households."

The answer, in Botelho's view, is to have periodic pharmaceutical round ups.

In order for this event to take place, special permission had to be granted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and disposal by incineration at the municipal waste facility had to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's standards.

The Juneau Police Department will have an uniformed officer at the Nugget Mall parking lot from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday with Botelho and City Manager Rod Swope and others to collect prescription and over-the-counter medications, pet meds, vitamins and supplements and homeopathic remedies in the form of tablets, pills or capsules. No containers or tubes, liquids, gels, patches, IV bags, blood or infectious waste, nebulizers, oxygen tanks, mercury thermometers or sharps will be accepted.

"We're trying to do it in a way that will be most convenient for the public," Botelho said. "We've been trying to get this thing going for some time. There have been delays in getting the DEA approval. We hoped to actually have done it earlier in the summer."

Botelho said he hopes holding the event in the Nugget Mall parking lot will make it a minimal inconvenience for people.

"I'm just hopeful that just the very act of doing this will create heightened public awareness," Botelho said. "I hope they re-examine when they are prescribed medications, use them in accordance with the instructions that come with them and recognize we all have a responsibility to not only correctly use medications, but dispose of them as well."

For more information on the national program go to

Contact Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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