Accidental drug poisoning and overdose have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic; it’s never been more important to participate in take back programs
TORONTO — Today, the Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA) – a national not-for-profit that operates return programs for unused or unwanted medications and sharps across British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island – is issuing an urgent call to action for Canadians to clear out their medicine cabinets of expired or unwanted medications and bring them into a pharmacy for safe disposal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the rate of accidental drug poisoning and overdose, which was already on the rise. Many provinces have reported an increase in opioid-related deaths in the past year and in Ontario, for instance, the vast majority of confirmed opioid-related deaths continue to be accidental in nature. Poisonings account for a significant number of hospitalizations and an even greater number of emergency department visits each year. Access to excess drugs in the home can be a contributing factor and so proper disposal is an essential practice to help curb the trend and protect Canadians.
“It’s never been more important to ensure Canadians know how to properly dispose of medications,” said Terri Drover, Director General at HPSA. “Over the past two decades, we’ve built a network of over 5,800 participating pharmacies which give communities access to safe disposal options. Together, we can all do our part to protect our communities and keep medications from falling into the wrong hands.”
A recent study conducted by HPSA showed that 34 per cent of Canadians still do not know about proper disposal for unwanted medications and used sharps, despite the fact that, within participating provinces, 90 per cent of pharmacies offer take back programs.
In addition to prescriptions, Canadians should return unwanted, unused, or expired over the counter medications and natural health products back to pharmacies as some of them might cause harm to the environment when disposed of improperly.
Together with consumers, pharmacists, and producers across Canada, HPSA is committed to keeping medications and sharps in the right places, keeping them out of landfills, waterways, and the wrong hands.
To find a participating pharmacy or for more information on what products need to be safely disposed of, visit: healthsteward.ca
For additional findings from HPSA’s Medical Safe Collection Awareness and Behaviour Study, visit: https://healthsteward.ca/a-call-to-action-for-all-canadians/
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The Health Products Stewardship Association is a national not-for-profit organization representing over 140 brand owners and manufacturers, responsible for the effective and safe collection and disposal of unused and expired medications and used medical sharps. On behalf of producers, HPSA administers 7 collections programs in 4 provinces with the support of more than 5,800 community pharmacies acting as collection sites. HPSA’s mandate is also to educate consumers on the responsibility of safely disposing unwanted medications and medical sharps before they end up in the garbage, poured down sinks, flushed or misused by others. Since its inception, HPSA has collected more than 3,750,000 kg of pharmaceutical products and 2,250,000 kg of medical sharps.
Results are based on an online study collected by Insights West on behalf of HPSA from February 11, 2021 to February 15, 2021 with a representative sample of 1,615 adults aged 18 years and older from the provinces of BC, Manitoba, Ontario and PEI. The margin of error with the total sample – which measures sample variability – is +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.
Notes to Editors:
For further information please contact:
Sam Pinto, Agnostic
 Preliminary Patterns in Circumstances Surrounding Opioid-Related Deaths in Ontario during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Public Health Ontario, November 2020, https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/o/2020/opioid-mortality-covid-surveillance-report.pdf?la=en
 Evidence Summary on the Prevention of Poisoning in Canada, Parachute and Injury Prevention Centre, University of Alberta, July 2020, https://parachute.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Evidence-Summary-on-Poisoning-in-Canada-UA.pdf