Partnership to promote proper vet drug disposal

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The AVMA and National Sea Grant Office are working together to raise awareness among veterinary clients about the importance of proper storage and disposal of unused veterinary medications.

The three-year partnership between the AVMA and NSGO, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was announced Nov. 28, 2011. The Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program is representing the NSGO in this collaboration, intended to curb improper disposal of unused drugs, which are a risk to people, animals, and the environment.

pillsMedications placed in the trash without taking precautions to secure the container, make the medication unpalatable, or disguise the contents are potentially accessible to humans and animals, and sometimes result in accidental poisonings.

Pharmaceutical drugs are also turning up in the environment. "Medicine disposal has become an emerging issue as numerous studies have found pharmaceuticals in drinking water and in lakes and rivers," said Laura Kammin, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant pollution prevention specialist. "The long-term impacts are not known, but it's clear that flushing medicines or throwing them in the trash contributes to the problem."

For the past six years, the IISG has worked with communities to develop local medicine collection programs. The IISG offers workshops and provides additional information and support so these local initiatives are safe and successful.

By partnering with the AVMA, the expectation is the information campaign will reach new audiences, including animal owners who, along with many in the general public, may need to dispose of unused and expired medicine.

"By increasing the general public's awareness of options available to them for the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and the environmental consequences of improper disposal, it is hoped and anticipated that fewer and fewer medications will be flushed or poured into our waters," said Dr. Kristi Henderson, assistant director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division.

Information about medicine collection programs and a downloadable tool kit, "Disposal of Unwanted Medicines: A Resource for Action in Your Community," is available at

As part of the collaboration, the IISG worked with Neutron Media, a contractor for CBS, to produce a 15-second public service announcement that communicates the message about drug disposal, pet safety, and water quality via the CBS superscreen in Times Square Plaza. It was set to begin in late December and run for 91 days.

For AVMA information on disposing of pharmaceuticals and other items relevant to veterinary practice, visit the AVMA's microsite, "Waste Disposal by Veterinary Practices: What Goes Where?" at