I was shocked to hear that hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of drugs, many not yet expired, are discarded by hospitals and nursing homes annually [Outlook, Nov. 24]. I have two ideas for putting them to use.
Every year my brother, a Fairfax County paramedic and disaster-relief worker, goes to Guatemala (using his own finances) to train firefighters on search and rescue techniques. Each time he brings boxes of donated firefighting and medical equipment, some of which goes to local hospitals. Perhaps hospitals in the Third World could use U.S. drugs. Institutions should have donation programs whereby unused drugs, instead of being discarded, would be sent to poor countries, which may be in desperate need.
Also, such drugs could be donated to animal hospitals and shelters and wildlife rescue leagues. State laws regulate the use of drugs in veterinary medicine, including the requirement that they not be expired, but good, unexpired medicines can always be useful, especially for wildlife rehabilitators who normally pay for them out of their own pockets. As a veterinary technician, I know many human drugs are used for animal medicine, and I would think the excess drugs of this prosperous nation could at least be used to help animals instead of being flushed down the toilet.
I practiced pulmonary medicine in Alexandria for almost 30 years. Whenever a patient died, I would tell family members that if they had medications that could no longer be used by someone in the household to bring them to me. I had many patients who had a difficult time affording medications.
These recycled medications were perfectly good and did not need to be discarded. I made sure that the patient identification was marked out. These samples did not sit in my office long.
I agree that there should be a way to send the medications back to the pharmacy or to give them to a free clinic or send them to another country to be dispersed by medical staff. It is a waste of money and resources. I am told the toilet is the place for them, but I am not sure the fish and aquatic vegetation would agree.
RONALD J. KARPICK