Thanks to the efforts of Generation Rx, a pharmacy student organization at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center dedicated to educating the general public about medication safety, a prescription drug drop box is now on campus to properly dispose of unwanted or used medications. It is located in the lobby of the UTHSC Campus Police headquarters at the Van Vleet building, 3 N. Dunlap, and may be accessed during business hours, Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 4:30 pm.
All prescription, non-prescription, over-the-counter pills, and liquids are accepted. There is a four-ounce limit. Illegal drugs, needles, blood sugar equipment, and chemotherapy drugs are not allowed.
The opioid crisis is a growing epidemic in Tennessee. According to the CDC, at least 1,837 Tennesseans died last year of drug overdoses. This number has been rising steadily for the past several years. Students and faculty in the College of Pharmacy are doing their part help decrease the number of potential drug overdoses locally and statewide, including being trained to properly dispense Narcan, the medication that reverses an opioid overdose.
“We hope that providing this drop box for the UTHSC community will make it easier for people to dispose of unneeded medications that could potentially be abused if not disposed of properly,” said Justin Griner, PharmD, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Translational Science and GenerationRx faculty adviser.
Past GenerationRx chair Kelly Tartera came up with the idea of obtaining a prescription drug drop box for campus after attending several service events within the Medical District. “Patients would commonly ask what they can do with their extra medications,” she said. “When I searched for the nearest box, I found that it was several miles away. For most of these patients, that was too far. I was shocked to find that here in the medical district and especially at UTHSC, there was not a place for disposing of unused prescriptions. As champions of health care, I believe that it is our responsibility to set the standard for proper prescription disposal and be readily accessible to patients.”
With the help of her instructors and peers, Tartera, a third-year pharmacy student, sprang into action and visited with Campus Police personnel to develop a collaborative effort to combat this issue. “I am so thankful that the campus Chief of Police, Anthony Berryhill, was supportive of this idea and is willing to maintain the box on campus.” she said. “It is my hope that this is an ongoing project that will continue to serve both UTHSC and the medical district for many years. In the future, I hope we can further involve other schools in the Medical District. This can build great relationships not only between the future healthcare providers, but also with current patients.”
Now that the drop box is in place, students are making a significant impact. Last month, Generation Rx participated in the DEA Drug Take Back Day in the Memphis metro area. Between all of the take back stations, over 2,127 pounds of unused prescription medications were recovered.
“I’m extremely proud of the tenacity that Kelly displayed to help make this drop box a reality, Dr. Griner said. “I’m very excited about the direction our current chair, Kristina Leav, is taking the organization this year as we try to educate our community about drugs of abuse and do what we can to combat the opioid epidemic.”
The drop box is just one of GenerationRx’s many initiatives. The group participates in a variety of events such as health fairs, presentations at the Memphis Farmer’s Market, Pride Fest, brown bag events at several nursing homes and senior centers, presentations at Crosstown Concourse, and more. For more information, contact Kristina Leav at email@example.com.