UPMC Health Plan to distribute home drug disposal kits to Medicare members

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health Plan has launched a program to distribute medication disposal kits to Medicare Advantage members. 

More than 11,000 kits will be distributed in May, one per member. Additionally, any Medicare member can request and receive one. The plan is targeting the Medicare population because of its likelihood of having multiple chronic conditions that require a complex medication regime. 

“UPMC for Life members who have multiple chronic conditions have enough to worry about, and we are so pleased to provide them with this simple, important resource to help manage their medications,” Angela Perri, chief Medicare officer of UPMC Health Plan, said in an announcement. “Drug disposal bags help get unnecessary, expired prescriptions out of the medicine cabinet and safely out of the home.”

This is something the plan has been thinking about for a while, though the pandemic temporarily distracted from the effort. “This is the solution that if you have an immediate need, you don’t have to wait for a drug take-back,” Chronis Manolis, senior vice president and chief pharmacy officer at UPMC Health Plan, told Fierce Healthcare.

Some people have a tendency to stockpile medications, which are likely to end up in the trash. If not discarded properly, prescription drugs are a risk to the environment as well as at risk of being diverted by others. Though controlled substance public disposal locations exist, as do federally mandated drug takeback days where temporary collection sites are set up, they are for in-person drop-off. Drug disposal kits can offer a more flexible, convenient solution at home, 

The drug disposal kit, made by Deterra, consists of a bag with activated carbon that deactivates drugs. Members place medication inside the disposal pouch, fill it with water and seal it. After a few seconds, the pouch is safe to be disposed of in regular garbage. The kits also come with information on local collection sites and how to safely dispose of certain allowed drugs at home. 

“It’s just so important to cover every base in the opioid epidemic,” Manolis said, from initial distribution to safe disposal. “This is where we’re starting; this is not where we’re going to end.”