Development of Disposal Systems for Deactivation of Unused/Residual/Expired Medications

Pharm Res. 2016 Jan;33(1):110-24. doi: 10.1007/s11095-015-1768-1. Epub 2015 Aug 12.


Purpose: The objective of this work was to identify deactivation agents and develop a disposal system for unused/ residual/ expired medications.

Methods: Deactivation agents screened included oxidizing agent-sodium percarbonate, hydrolysis agent- sodium carbonate and adsorbants- zeolite and activated carbon. Deactivation studies using these agents were performed on four active pharmaceutical agents (APIs) including ketoprofen, dexamethasone sodium phosphate, metformin hydrochloride and amoxicillin trihydrate. Disposal systems were also designed for deactivation studies on dexamethasone pills, amoxicillin trihydrate capsules and fentanyl transdermal patches (Duragesic®). Briefly, APIs/ dosage forms were allowed to be in close contact with deactivation agents for a specified period of time and percentage decrease in the amount of API from the initial amount was measured.

Results: Sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate were only successful in deactivation of amoxicillin trihydrate API. Adsorption agents resulted in more universal deactivation with activated carbon resulting in efficient deactivation of most APIs and all dosage forms tested. Also adsorption of oral dosage medications on activated carbons was maintained even on dilution and shaking and no desorption was observed.

Conclusions: Deactivation systems containing activated carbon are promising for efficient, safe and environment friendly disposal of unused/residual/expired medications.

Keywords: deactivation; disposal systems; unused medications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adsorption
  • Carbonates / chemistry
  • Charcoal
  • Drug Residues / analysis*
  • Medical Waste Disposal / methods*
  • Oxidants / chemistry
  • Prescription Drugs
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Carbonates
  • Medical Waste Disposal
  • Oxidants
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Charcoal
  • sodium carbonate
  • sodium percarbonate