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Evaluation of the National Return of Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Program in Australia: A Study Protocol


Evaluation of the National Return of Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Program in Australia: A Study Protocol

Amanda J Wheeler et al. J Pharm Policy Pract.


Background: The National Return of Unwanted Medicines (NatRUM) program in Australia is one of the few nationally coordinated, free-to-consumer schemes to dispose of unwanted medicines globally. This scheme has been in operation since 1996, however, little is known about public awareness of the scheme and its effectiveness in reducing unsafe disposal practices. The study objectives are to undertake a review of (1) the current use of the NatRUM scheme by consumers; and (11) to investigate disposal practices and beliefs of the general population.

Methods/design: A two-stage, mixed-methods study will be undertaken. Stage One will include a nation-wide audit of a representative sample of unwanted medicine bins, collected by community pharmacies, for incineration. The audit will detail the type and amount of unwanted medicines collected and if they are subsidised on the national formulary (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme). Stage Two will include: (i) a large, representative, general population survey; and (ii) more detailed interviews with a sub-set of this sample, who take five or more medications. Results will quantitatively describe the awareness of the NatRUM scheme, disposal practices and the volume of unwanted medicines stored in the home. It will qualitatively describe beliefs and perceptions about storage and disposal practices.

Discussion: It is anticipated that this study will provide valuable insights about how Australians dispose of unwanted medicines, their awareness of the NatRUM scheme and how the scheme might be strengthened. Results will inform the Federal Department of Health and NatRUM Ltd. Board at a local level, as well as other countries who are yet to develop or implement coordinated disposal schemes. A number of challenges are expected, including ensuring the consistency of medicines terminology during the bin audit and recruiting a representative sample of Australians for the general population survey. Results of this study will be widely disseminated to support the translation of findings into practice.

Keywords: Australia; Medicines disposal; Mixed methods design; Unwanted medicines; Waste.

Conflict of interest statement

Ethics approval and consent to participate

The study has been approved by a Human Research Ethics Committee (2016/449/GUHREC).

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

This article contains the opinions of the authors and does not in any way reflect the views of the Department of Health, the Australian Government or The National Return & Disposal of Unwanted Medicines Limited.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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