Safe Medicine Patch Disposal


Some medicines come in patches that you attach to your skin. Examples include: NicoDerm CQ (nicotine), used to quit smoking; Climara (estradiol), used to treat symptoms of menopause; Duragesic (fentanyl), used to relieve serious, long-term pain.Patches are designed to give a constant amount of medicine over a certain period of time, usually several days. New patches contain lots of medicine, but used patches can still contain medicine after you take them off. Both new and used patches can be dangerous for children or pets.

Children may think patches are like stickers, tattoos, or Band-Aids. In a tragic story, a 4-year-old child died after placing a Duragesic patch on his body. His mother had been using these patches for pain from Crohn's disease, a digestive tract disorder. After she found her son dead, she also found a torn wrapper in an overturned bedroom trashcan. It was not clear whether the boy stuck a used patch on his body or opened a new one and applied it.

Children have also been exposed to danger from medicine patches that fell off a family member. In one case, the child sat on the fallen patch and it stuck to her upper thigh. One child removed a patch while his grandmother was sleeping and applied it to himself. In these cases, the patches were noticed right away and the children were not injured. Most patch directions say to fold the sticky sides together and then throw them in the trash or flush them down the toilet. However, flushing could pollute the water supply or clog sewage systems. The mother of the boy who died tried flushing her used patches at first. She decided to put them in the trash can after clogging her toilet and reading about harm to the environment from flushing medicines.

Follow these suggestions for safe patch use to better protect children, pets, and the environment:

Store patches safely: Keep new patches far away from the reach or discovery of children. A high, locked cabinet would be best.

Dispose of patches safely: Fold the sticky sides together and place them in a sturdy container, preferably with a child-resistant cap. Be sure the opening is big enough for a folded patch to go in but small enough that a child's hand cannot. A washed-out bottle with a child-resistant cap may work well. You could also ask your pharmacist for a large empty bottle or prescription vial with a child-resistant cap. Or look in the drugstore for "sharps containers" that diabetics use for their insulin needles. Some of these can even be mailed back to the container company for free when they are ready for disposal (visit for one example).

Discard frequently: Whatever container you use to dispose of patches, remove it from your home frequently. The more used patches available to someone, the more seriously they can be harmed.

Created on September 1, 2005

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