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The Disposal of Unwanted Medicines Properly Project (DUMP)

Pilot Project supported in part by 3Ts funding

Back in 2005, 3Ts funding helped initiate the Disposal of Unwanted Medicines Properly project (DUMP).  This was at the time a research project which also served the practical purpose of organising the collection and safe disposal and destruction of unused medicines.  At the time a pilot project, the initiative continues today in the Cork / Kerry region. 

The DUMP initiative seeks to reduce the number of deaths through overdose & accidental poisoning, with real benefits in terms of suicide prevention, child accident prevention, environmental protection as well as the collection of valuable data on prescription & over-prescription patterns.  

DUMP aims to:

  • Reduce access to means of overdose;
  • Reduce Accidental poisoning of children;
  • Help Prevent the unused medicines entering into the environment.

In 2019, the National Self Harm Registry recorded 12,465 cases of self-harm in Ireland, comprising 9,705 people.  62% of these cases involved overdose.  In 2020, the Poisons Information Centre of Ireland reported 7,085 cases of accidental poisoning in young children under 14 years, the majority of which were in the under 4 year age group (5,947, 52.2%). Accidental poisoning is a leading cause of death in our children, second only to road traffic accidents. Medication was the most common type of agent in paediatric cases. 

3ts funding supported the analysis of data in light of national poisoning and suicide / para suicide statistics and examined the correlation between drugs employed in suicide / para suicide and drugs unused / hoarded. The project also analysed the correlation between medications prescribed and unused, trends in prescription practice and the cost of unwanted medicines to the Dept of Health.  There is a widespread public belief that the correct method of disposal is to flush unwanted medicines into the waste stream but this brings with it huge environmental implications and this project aimed to fund the correct disposal of such medicines.

A pilot project was initially held in the South Western Area Health Board and in Phase 2 alone, 5 collections from 162 Pharmacies yielded 7.26 tonnes of unwanted medicines. A similar scheme was launched in the Midlands region in early 2006.  The scheme continues today in the Cork / Kerry regions.  In 2018, more than 280 bins, containing more than four tonnes of medicines, were safely disposed of as part of the campaign. 

The findings of our 2005 research still stand today and make a compelling case for a national rollout of the DUMP Programme on a variety of levels.  It could help saves lives lost to suicide and accidental poisonings;  help the environment by removing unwanted medicines from homes which would otherwise find their way into the ecosystem through careless disposal and ultimately, the initiative could save individuals and the State on costs related to over-prescription and supply of unwanted or unused medicines.

3Ts applaud the provision of this service regionally but continue believe that this project should be available countrywide. For current information on the scheme, see here.

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