A call to action for all Canadians

National, | Jul 14, 2021

Today, we’re issuing an urgent call to action for Canadians to clear out their medicine cabinets of unwanted medications and bring them into a pharmacy for safe disposal.

This call to action comes at a critical time. Not only has COVID-19 further exacerbated the rate of accidental drug poisoning, but many provinces are reporting a sharp rise in opioid-related deaths. Access to expired, unwanted or unused drugs in the home can be a contributing factor to these tragic and often accidental overdoses, making proper disposal an essential practice to help curb the trend and protect Canadians.

To find out more about how Canadians are disposing of their unwanted medications and used sharps, HPSA recently conducted a study with Insights West. Here are some questions we had and what we found out:

If someone in your province has the following in their household and they are expired to unwanted, what is the safe/right thing to do with them?

  • 66% of those who have medications in their household provided an answer on an unaided basis that proved they know the right/safe thing to do.
    • Knowing the safe/right thing to do is higher in PEI (77%) relative to other provinces (66% in Ontario, 65% in BC and 62% in Manitoba).
    • Knowledge is also higher in rural or remote locations (82%) and among those who live in medium or smaller cities (73%) compared to those in major urban areas (60%), very large cities (60%) and large cities (61%).
    • Younger Canadians are less likely to be aware than their older counterparts; 82% of those 55+ prove they know the safe/right thing to do compared to 63% of those 35-54 years and 46% of those 18-34 years.
  • 54% of those who have sharps in their household provided an answer on an unaided basis that proved they know the right/safe thing to do.

Do you know where to take the following to be safely collected? That is, are you aware of places that will take them and safely dispose of them if they are expired or unwanted and you want to get rid of them?

  • 55% of those who have unwanted/expired medications in their household provided an answer on an unaided basis that proved they know where to take them.
    • Location knowledge is higher in PEI (66%) and Ontario (57%) than in BC (53%) and Manitoba (50%).
    • Knowledge is also higher in rural or remote locations (68%) and among those who live in medium or smaller cities (66%) compared to those in major urban areas (49%), very large cities (50%) and large cities (53%).
    • Younger Canadians are less likely to be aware than their older counterparts; 72% of those 55+ know where to take medications compared to 53% of those 35-54 years and 35% of those 18-34 years.
  • 64% of those who have sharps in their household provided an answer on an unaided basis that proved they know where to take them

Where did you learn about where to take the following items to be safely collected?

  • Pharmacists are by far the leading source of awareness.
    • 60% of those who know where to take unwanted/expired medications learned about it from their pharmacist or drug store.
    • 71% of those who know where to take sharps learned about it from their pharmacist or drug store.

If you have the following and they are expired or unwanted, what do you generally do with them?

  • Among those who have unwanted or expired medications in their households, 66% dispose of them correctly.
    • PEI residents most often practice correct disposal techniques (78%), whereas slightly fewer do so in BC (68%) and Ontario (66%); correct disposal is lowest in Manitoba (60%).
    • Correct disposal is higher in rural or remote locations (76%) and among those who live in medium or smaller cities (71%) compared to those in major urban areas (58%), very large cities (62%) and large cities (62%).
    • Younger Canadians are less likely to correctly dispose of medications than their older counterparts; 79% of those 55+ compared to 63% of those 35-54 years and 42% of those 18-34 years.
  • Among those who have unwanted sharps in their households, 77% dispose of them correctly.

 

Together with consumers, pharmacists, and producers across Canada, HPSA is committed to keeping medications and sharps in the right places, keeping them out of landfills, waterways, and the wrong hands.

To find a participating pharmacy or for more information on what products need to be safely disposed of, click here.

 

Methodology

Results are based on an online study collected by Insights West on behalf of HPSA from February 11, 2021, to February 15, 2021, with a representative sample of 1,615 adults aged 18 years and older from the provinces of BC, Manitoba, Ontario and PEI. The margin of error with the total sample – which measures sample variability – is +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

health products disposal data