Disposing Medications & Sharps - VA Palo Alto Health Care System
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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


Disposing Medications & Sharps

Place all needles and other sharps in a sharps disposal container immediately after they have been used.

Place all needles and other sharps in a sharps disposal container immediately after they have been used.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Do you have old medications in your cabinets? Do you have a medical condition requiring the use of “sharps” such as needles, syringes, or lancets? This article will describe ways to safely dispose of these medications and sharps.

Why is proper disposal of medications important?

Improper disposal of prescription and over-the-counter medications can harm the environment. There is also a risk of these medications being taken inappropriately - either by illegal sale or accidental ingestion. VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) CANNOT accept unwanted or unused medicines but here are a few ways you can get rid of them safely:

  • Mail unwanted or unused medicines in a TakeAway envelope you can get from any VAPAHCS Pharmacy locations.
  • Ask the VAPAHCS Pharmacy staff for a list of the county Household Hazardous Waste programs.
  • Visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website to find public medication waste disposal locations in your area.
  • If there are no collection programs or facilities near you, and there are no specific disposal instructions found in the medication guide, you may follow these steps from the FDA to dispose of most medications in your household trash:
    • STEP 1: Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds
    • STEP 2: Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
    • STEP 3: Throw away the container in your trash at home
    • STEP 4: Delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty medicine bottles or medicine packaging, then trash or recycle the empty bottle or packaging

Why are used sharps dangerous?

Improper disposal of used sharps puts others at risk of painful stick injury and potential exposure to diseases such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV/AIDS. Ask your provider or pharmacist for a sharps container; fill container only ¾ full and close before disposing of it. Since VA Palo Alto Health Care System CANNOT accept used sharps, here are some options for safe disposal:

  • Call the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at (800) 643-1643 or visit www.safeneedledisposal.org for more information on safe sharps disposal in your area.
  • Call your county Household Hazardous Waste program to find a facility.

It is our goal to provide safe, high-quality health care for your visits at VAPAHCS. But it is also our goal to help you stay safe while at home or out in the community. This means providing you with resources for proper disposal of medications and used sharps that could be a danger to the environment, other adults, children, or even pets. We can all do our part to avoid this very preventable health risk!

Carolyn Wrzesniewski is the medication safety officer/pharmacist at VA Palo Alto Health Care System.


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