Drug recycling

Drug recycling is the idea that health care organizations or consumers with unused drugs can transfer them in a safe and appropriate way to another consumer who needs them.[1] This would happen through a specialized pharmacy or medical organization which would oversee and mediate the process.[1]

It is traditional to expect that consumers get prescription drugs from a pharmacy and that the pharmacy got their drugs from a trusted source.[1] In a drug recycling program, consumers would access drugs through a less regulated supply chain and consequently the quality of the drugs could be lower.[1] Advocates and opponents of drug recycling programs differ in judging the risk of the less regulated supply chain lowering the quality of drugs which reach the consumer.[1]

Various regional governments in the United States offer drug recycling programs.[2][3] As of 2010, Canada had fewer drug recycling programs than the United States.[4]

Various organizations and governments are experimenting with different ways to manage drug recycling programs.[5] Many drug recycling programs only take drugs from professionals, and never from patients.[5] Drug recycling programs are not designed to be useful for consumers seeking to dispose of drugs.[5] These programs also are not intended to lessen the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals and personal care products.[5] Typically they only accept medication which has not expired and which is in unopened packaging.[5] When re-using recycled drugs, they only go to specific pharmacies which are prepared to address the special requirements of participating in a recycling program.[5] Usually, drug returns happen without financial compensation.[5]

SIRUM, an acronym for "Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine", is a nonprofit organization which advocates for drug recycling.


  1. Pomerantz, JM (23 April 2004). "Recycling expensive medication: why not?". MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine. 6 (2): 4. PMC 1395800. PMID 15266231.
  2. Nelson, Gayle (26 May 2015). "The Next Recycling Frontier: Prescription Drugs". Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  3. Inskeep, Steve (22 May 2015). "Poor Residents Benefit From Oklahoma County's Medicine Recycling". Morning Edition. NPR.
  4. Doyle, S. (8 February 2010). "Canada lags behind United States in drug return, reuse and recycling programs". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 182 (4): E197–E198. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-3171. PMC 2831677.
  5. Cauchi, Richard; Hanson, Karmen; Robinson, Savannah (31 March 2017). "State Prescription Drug Return, Reuse and Recycling Laws". www.ncsl.org. National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
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