Don't flush pills down toilet


June 05, 2008|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I asked my pharmacist what to do with outdated prescription medicines and was shocked when he said "flush." I didn't, of course. Instead, I put them in a container of water to dissolve, out of reach of my cat.

Then, I spread out several sheets of newspaper and "painted" the resulting sludge all over them. After they dried, I tore them up and put them in the trash. Was this a safe way to dispose of them?

Your pharmacist was misguided when he suggested flushing pills down the toilet. There is growing concern about pharmaceutical contamination of the water supply.

There is no coordinated system for proper disposal of unused pills. Some communities accept unwanted medications in their hazardous-waste collection.

If that's not feasible, your suggestion seems reasonable. Another reader suggested adding Elmer's glue to the container and allowing it to set hard before throwing the container in the trash.

I have suspicions that my husband has been messing around. He recently contracted chlamydia. He said he got it from sitting on the toilet seat at work. Is this possible? He suggested I get tested as well.

You should be tested for chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted disease that is caused by a bacterium (Chlamydia trachomatis). The infection is easily treated with antibiotics, but untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

According to the American Social Health Association, "Chlamydia is not passed through things like shaking hands or toilet seats."

I've begun to take a prescribed drug that is very expensive and not covered by my insurance. I see that it is available at much lower cost from Canada via the Internet.

Are there any safety concerns in buying from Canada? Are the drugs the same as those sold in the U.S?

If you were traveling to Canada and buying your medicines in person, you would not need to worry about the quality of the medications. Canadian pharmacies are carefully regulated.

On the Internet, however, pharmacies can easily pose as Canadian even if they are not. One reader sent this report:

"I bought $300 of pills from an online pharmacy. I thought it was in Canada, but I received an unlabeled plastic bag with the pills. The delivery paperwork listed the originating office as Dandong, China - not Canada!

"Worse yet, I tried one of the pills, and it had no effect. I suspect they are bogus imitation pills with no active medicine whatsoever. I know this because I have experience buying this prescription in the U.S., and the pills work every time. Please pass the word about this fraud."

I know you have written about taking turmeric for psoriasis. My fingernails are falling out from this condition. I would like to try turmeric. Is it safe?

There is growing interest in turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, for treating a variety of inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis. One reader shared the following: "I had psoriasis on my feet and my hands so bad that I lost all the nails on my fingers. I went to doctor after doctor for my psoriasis, but nothing worked.

"Then, I saw your article on turmeric. I started to put it in my food and my coffee, and within two weeks the psoriasis was better. Within three weeks, it was gone. My foot is no longer scaly, and the nails on my hands grew back.

"I told the doctor about this, but he didn't believe me. Thanks to you, I have been free of psoriasis for six months."

Not everyone will benefit as this reader did, and there are cautions. Some people experience skin rashes or liver enzyme elevations. Turmeric also may interact with Coumadin (warfarin) and increase the risk of bleeding. A new study shows that turmeric increases oxalate in the urine, so it may increase the risk of kidney stones in susceptible people (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2008).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

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