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By Ajay K. Banga and Andrew Korey

Ajay BangaNearly every American household will at some time be in possession of controlled substances. A large percentage of prescription medicines are never used or are used in much smaller quantities than prescribed. Results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show prescription drug misuse is generally initiated via a “diversion,” which most often occurs when people obtain and consume prescription medications that were not intended for them. Consequently, safe and prompt unwanted drug disposal may be a means to help prevent diversion. Since toilet flushing of drugs is now often discouraged by several environmental agencies, due to the increase in pharmaceutical contamination of watersheds, there are few alternatives for safe medication removal by patients in the home setting.

Verde Technologies, a Minnesota-based company, holds a phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to continue development of an activated carbon-based disposal system designed specifically to deactivate the remaining drug in dosage forms, including transdermal patches. We, along with William Fowler, are the principal scientists involved with this project. The system basically consists of a drug disposal pouch that contains granular activated carbon packaged within a water-soluble film reservoir. This pouch can render drugs inactive by adsorption in the presence of water, which is simple and convenient for the patients. Research presented at the 2015 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition by lead authors Pooja Bakshi and Yang Song shows the efficiency of this disposal system was tested with several psychoactive medications in different dosage forms such as sublingual films, liquid, and solid dosage forms.

Six drugs were tested—buprenorphine, diazepam, fluoxetine, methylphenidate, morphine, and oxycodone—and the deactivation pouch was found to successfully adsorb psychoactive medications. Studies were continued for 28 days but 80%–98% of adsorption occurred within the first 8 hours. Activated carbon did not release the adsorbed drug when exposed to large volumes of water and ethanol. Further testing is in progress, and a total of 20 psychoactive medications including fentanyl patches will be tested as a part of the NIDA-funded project.

Ajay K. Banga, Ph.D., is professor and department chair in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy, Mercer University, Atlanta, Ga. He also holds an endowed chair in transdermal delivery systems.
Andrew Korey, Ph.D., is cofounder and former CEO and current principal investigator for government contracts for of Verde Environmental Technologies, Minnetonka, Minn.