The Return Unwanted Medicines project is encouraging pharmacies to prepare for increased collection volumes of unwanted medicines

(RUM) is set to launch a new national awareness campaign next week.

“We are really excited to be launching a new campaign to alert people that this free and convenient service for returning unwanted medicines exists in the community,” says Toni Riley, RUM Project Manager and community pharmacist.

By following three simple steps of READ, REMOVE and RETURN, Australians can minimise the risk of unintended poisonings and medication mix-ups, and do their bit to protect the environment.”

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According to a recent research study by Griffith University of more than 4,300 Australians, more than 60% had unwanted medicines in their home.

Worryingly, the majority of respondents (over 80%) did not know how to dispose of expired or unwanted medicines safely and appropriately and were completely unware of the RUM initiative.

“We have a big job ahead of us to raise consumer awareness of RUM, and we are calling on the pharmacy industry to support our efforts,” says Ms Riley.

“Every interaction with a customer – especially at the dispensary counter – presents an opportunity to remind them to return their medicines back to the pharmacy, in the event it expires or is not used,” she says.

In 2015-16, pharmacists collected well over 700,000kgs of unwanted medicines, which was an increase of 7.7% from 2014-15 collections. During this same year, almost 150,000 RUM bins were delivered to community pharmacies.

“Although our recent audit confirms that pharmacies are using collection bins appropriately, RUM is still unfortunately an underutilised service in the community.

“We are thankful to pharmacy for their role in facilitating collections thus far and look forward to their continued support as we kick off our new campaign,” Ms Riley says.

To place an order for a RUM bin, pharmacies should contact their pharmacy wholesaler. From next week, downloadable RUM resources will also be available for pharmacy staff and can be accessed at www.returnmed.com.au.

These resources are designed to help pharmacies engage their local community about RUM.