Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association

Just Accepted

This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

When is a medicine unwanted, how is it disposed and how might safe disposal be promoted? Insights from the Australian population

Emilie Bettington , Jean Spinks , Fiona Kelly , Alejandra Gallardo-Godoy , Son Nghiem , Amanda Wheeler


Objective: To explore disposal practices of unwanted medicines in a representative sample of Australian adults, compare this with previous household waste surveys and explore awareness of a national medicines return scheme (NatRUM). Method: A ten-minute online survey was developed, piloted and conducted with an existing research panel of adult individuals. Survey questions recorded demographics, presence of unwanted medicines in the home, medicine disposal practices and concerns about unwanted medicines. Descriptive statistical analyses and rank-ordered logit regression were conducted. Results: Sixty-percent of 4302 respondents reported having unwanted medicines in their household. Medicines were primarily kept just in case they were needed again and one third of these medicines were expired. Two-thirds of respondents disposed of medicines with the household garbage and about a quarter poured medicines down the drain. Only 17.6% of respondents had heard of the NatRUM scheme although once informed, 91.7% stated that they would use it. Respondents ranked the risk of unintended ingestion as the most important public health message for future social marketing campaigns. Conclusions: Respondents were largely unaware of the NatRUM scheme yet were willing to use it once informed. Limited awareness could lead to environmental or public health risks and targeted information campaigns are needed.

AH16296  Accepted 26 June 2017

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