Health Scan: How to dispose of those old pills

Don't flush old medications down the toilet unless the drug's label specifically says to do so.

pills 88 (photo credit: )
pills 88
(photo credit: )
The Health Ministry is in a quandary about what to advise people who want to dispose of unused, unneeded or expired medications so they cannot cause harm to anyone who finds them or seep into the groundwater from garbage dumps and cause harm. Many people just throw them down the toilet, while others bring them to pharmacies, which somehow dispose of them but not necessarily in a safe manner. Now the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has issued new guidelines for drug disposal. It is best, they advise, to mix the medications with kitty litter or used coffee grounds and put them in impermeable, nondescript containers such as empty cans or sealable bags before tossing them into the trash . The Harvard Heart Letter, a publication of Harvard Medical School, offers another tip: Add some water to pills, and put some flour in liquids before sealing them and throwing them away. Don't flush old medications down the toilet unless the drug's label specifically says to do so, the newsletter advises. Some drugs can kill helpful bacteria in septic systems and pass largely untouched through sewage treatment plants. Once in landfills, such drugs can seep into groundwater. STATE OF THE HEART More than 400 of Israel's top cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiologists listened to lectures and watched closed-circuit transmissions from the operating room at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center recently. The event, titled "Heart Valve Surgery - State of the Heart," was chaired by Prof. Dani Bitran, head of the hospital's department of cardiothoracic surgery, who hosted Prof. Alain Carpentier, one of the world's most renowned cardiac surgeons. It was the French surgeon's first trip to Israel. Looking back on the two days that he had spent here, he remarked, "Having now visited Jerusalem, I can say that my life can be divided into two periods, one before visiting this city and one after." After his lecture, he performed surgery from Shaare Zedek's Jesselson Heart Center that was broadcast to the conference participants. Prof. Dan Tzivoni, head of the cardiology department, said he was very proud that Shaare Zedek had been chosen to host such a prestigious presentation. He described Carpentier as a "master surgeon who has played a pivotal role in all the advancements in cardiac surgery in recent decades." ANOTHER WEAPON AGAINST CANCER The Israel Cancer Association (ICA) has welcomed the US Food and Drug Administration announcement Wednesday that it had granted approval for the marketing of Tykerb, a drug for women with metastatic breast cancer that no longer responds to Herceptin. The FDA examines studies showing that when Tykerb (of GlaxoSmithKline) is given along with the drug Xeloda, another breast cancer drug from Roche Pharmaceuticals, the disease is kept under control better than with Xeloda alone. Tykerb is not in Israel's basket of health services, but will probably be proposed for inclusion next year. The ICA said Tykerb, which prevents further decline in women with metastases, is yet another tool to fight common malignancies. MEN-ONLY MENTAL WARD AT SHEBA Sheba Medical Center has opened a special closed psychiatric ward for men only after receiving requests from members of the haredi community who don't want mixed-sex wards for reasons of modesty. The haredi community from Bnei Brak and other nearby areas were accommodated by Sheba, which for 15 years has had a psychiatric outpatient facility known as the "Bnei Brak clinic" but without any markings outside. This has been done to alleviate the stigma among haredim from going for psychiatric care; anyone who does reduces the chances of finding a suitable shidduch (match for marriage) for a member of the family. The psychiatric branch, headed by Prof. Michael Davidson, already has three hospital inpatient wards, including a department for women patients only, and a day hospital. Now there is a new men-only ward, directed by Dr. Mark Weiser. PILLCAM MARKS HALF-MILLION MARK Given Imaging's 500,000th PillCam video capsule has been sold, five years after the Israeli invention was put on the. market. The Yokneam-based company is the leader in advancing capsule endoscopy - a safe and effective tool for detecting disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Today, PillCam capsule endoscopes are being used in more than 60 countries. "Ten years ago, no one believed it was possible to fit a camera into a capsule so small that it could be swallowed," says Homi Shamir, the company's CEO. "Today, that dream is a reality. When we started this journey, we focused on the small bowel. Today, we have expanded our product portfolio with additional capsules for the esophagus and colon." "Capsule endoscopy is one of the most important innovations in the history of endoscopy, and could transform diagnostic and screening endoscopy," adds Dr. Christopher Gostout, past president of the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. "The ongoing and accumulated clinical experience with capsule endoscopy of the small intestine has proven its value."