Last week out of the blue, Billie Hyde decided to clean out a drawer in her bathroom cabinet that contained unused and expired medication she had accumulated during the past several years.
The 78-year-old Baton Rouge resident wanted to dispose of the medication, but knew better than to flush the material down her toilet, and no one she talked to knew of a safe way to get rid of it, either.
Then, she heard about National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday and her problem was solved.
The national event is sponsored by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which partners with local and state law enforcement agencies to provide people a safe place to dispose of unwanted or expired prescription medication anonymously and with no questions asked.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Baton Rouge Police Department and Louisiana State Police all participated Saturday by collecting prescription medication from the public between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said that DEA, state, local and tribal authorities across the nation have collected more than 2 million pounds of unwanted or unneeded prescription drugs during the last five Take Back Day events.
Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer, spokesman for Troop A in Baton Rouge, said State Police collected nearly 85 pounds of prescription medication Saturday, not counting pill bottles or boxes.
“If you think about how little a single pill weighs, to get 85 pounds, that’s a significant amount of prescription medication that will be disposed of in a safe manner,” Sandifer said.
Hicks said the Sheriff’s Office collected about 30 pounds of discarded medication at Ochsner Health Center, while Baton Rouge police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said police officers received more than 18 pounds at the 3rd District station.
At Troop A on Highland Road, volunteers from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana and QVL Pharmacy helped Lt. Sheldon Perkins of State Police collect medication dropped off by about 55 people.
Robin Mayhall, spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said that in addition to vitamins and over-the-counter medications, they received dangerous and addictive medications such as Oxycodone and sleeping pills.
She said they also took in nitroglycerine, which is, to her knowledge, a type of medication for heart patients which they had never received before in the five years she worked with the Take-Back Day project.
“It’s really a no-brainer for us to come out and support this,” Mayhall said, referring to Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s involvement.
The public also donated inhalers, creams and epinephrine injectors — known as epipens — said Kristian Fruge, a clinical pharmacist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
He said he supports Take-Back Day because people do not realize how harmful flushing pills down commodes can be to the environment, because the medications actually can migrate into the public water supply.
“Most of them are people who have loved ones who died and they are dropping off their medication,” Fruge said.
At 2 p.m., Perkins collected the loose medication in a box and weighed and sealed it so DEA could dispose of the contents later.
Susan Kemp, a pharmacist for QVL Pharmacy, gathered the pill bottles and boxes together and gave them to a company that will destroy them along with any personal information they might contain.