Safe Drug Disposal through MedDrop

Expired medications. Doubling up on dosage. Pain medication ending up in the wrong hands. The Dane County Transitions Coalition recognizes that adverse drug use is a serious health crisis that deserved their focus and expertise. The group—made up of multiple community hospitals and health agencies—also recognized that while they may not be able to impact the way drugs are prescribed and dispensed, they could do something to get unnecessary, unused or expired medications out of the home.


That's how they came up with the MedDrop program to distribute thousands of bags to the community, in partnership with quality improvement organization, MetaStar. Staff and caregivers from dozens of agencies have been handing out thousands of bags to their patients and clients since October. UW Health also trained its pharmacy staff to distribute the bags starting in late 2016.


The MedDrop program distributes small, blue opaque bags clearly labeled with instructions for disposing of old, unused medications, including where they can be dropped off at one of 13 official MedDrop box locations in Dane county.The small, blue opaque bags are clearly labeled with instructions for disposing of old, unused medications, including where they can be dropped off at one of 13 official MedDrop box locations in Dane county. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to prevent medication errors in the home, as well as keep discarded drugs out of the water supply.


Maria Brenny-Fitzpatrick, director of transitional care at UW Health and project lead, describes the harm that could be unintentionally caused by even one medication mix-up. "When medications are used incorrectly, especially among seniors, this can lead to more falls, confusion, or any number of serious side effects."


Early feedback on the MedDrop program has been positive.


"Our staff is very excited to participate in this initiative," says Jennifer Fisher, manager of the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Dane County and project co-lead. "It relates to what we do every day and we can distribute the bags when we do outreach and home visits."


Brenny-Fitzpatrick credits the hard work of many on the committee for jumping into action and making their brainstorm a reality, all the way down to the look of the bag and the content of the label. Coalition members also worked closely with the United Way of Dane County, the Wisconsin Pharmacy Coalition, Safe Communities and others already working on this.


"Our intent is to get all of these different agencies in the same room, talking to one another about this issue as well as many others," Brenny-Fitzpatrick says. "To help the patients we share as they transition from one health care setting to the next, we need to first chip away at those communication barriers."


Brenny-Fitzpatrick says the coalition is unique in the health care industry because of the involvement of multiple hospitals—UW Health, UnityPoint Health - Meriter and Stoughton Hospital—and multiple agencies, many of whom are competitors. "We have such a varied membership, and we're still going strong!" she says.


UW Health sponsors three community coalitions. In addition to the Dane County Transitional Coalition, Brenny-Fitzpatrick also works more specifically with assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities.


"UW recognizes the importance of our community partners in keeping our patients safe and healthy… they're the experts in what's going on outside the health care system. It's important to reach outside our walls… coordinate efforts and build trust and communication."