Janesville73°

Drug roundup a big success

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Catherine W. Idzerda
April 18, 2010
— Auraphene, Arthrotec, Adalat, AcipHex, fenofibrate, spironolactone, fentanyl, prochlorperazine, gabapentin and guaifenesin.

And let’s not forget thimerosal, levothyroxine, thalidomide and Bromo Seltzer.


On Saturday, police officers, utility workers, coroner’s office staffers, pharmacists, public health officials and volunteers from the Blackhawk Golden K Kiwanis Club and Morning Rotary, sorted through mountains of drugs as part of the semi-annual Rx Roundup.


The goal is to keep dangerous drugs off the streets—and drugs of all kinds out of the water supply.


Saturday’s roundup took place in Edgerton, Beloit, Janesville and Milton—two more sites than usual. Even so, workers weren’t able to keep up with the influx of prescription and over-the-counter drugs coming in.


After being open 90 minutes, more than 240 cars had driven through the water utility garage on Delavan Drive, dropping off everything from a single bottle to shopping bags full of drugs.


“Usually we’re able to get caught up, and we’d have to wait around for the next car,” said Brian Skaife, water utility chemist-biologist for the city of Janesville. “Not this year.”


Skaife and six others worked at folding tables, sorting pills into controlled and non-controlled substance categories.


Behind them, at a tiny folding table, pharmacist Dawn Recker from Schnuck’s Pharmacy, Janesville, had the unenviable task of sorting through mystery pills that came in bags or unmarked bottles. Recker’s job was to decipher the markings on pills, identify the ones she recognized and search the Internet for the ones she did not.


Some pill bottles still contained the full prescription. Others contained more than one kind of medicine. One bottle contained wooden matches.


Occasionally, the pill sorting triggered memories. Bottles from such long-gone establishments as Key Rexal, Reliable Pharmacy and Milton Avenue Pharmacy all showed up.


Prescriptions dated back two decades and more, and ancient bottles of Bromo Seltzer, alum, and Merthiolate showed up.


Merthiolate, which is a brand name for thiomersal, was long used as an antiseptic. Now, thiomersal is used as a preservative in vaccines, and some parents and health care providers have questioned its safety.


After the roundup, controlled substances, such as Percocet, Adderall and OxyContin will be stored in an evidence locker at the Janesville Police Department.


Later the material will be sent to a special disposal incinerator.


Other medicines are disposed of separately.


This was the fifth year for Rx Roundup for the Rock County Health Department, and each year it collects more drugs, said Tim Banwell, Rock County environmental health director.


In 2006, officials collected 260 pounds of drugs. Last year, they collected 1,600 pounds—that’s a 515 percent increase in four years. The total for this year is expected to be even larger.


Part of the increase is due to a greater public knowledge of prescription drug dangers, law enforcement officials said.


“This year Milton was not slated to be one of the drop-off sites,” said Lt. John Conger of the Milton Police Department. “But we called and asked to be a part of it.”


In February, a 13-year-old Milton boy died after taking oxycodone he got from a middle school friend.


She reportedly got the drugs from a relative’s medicine cabinet.


“We see most of the problems with drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin,” Conger said. “Usage is on the rise.”


“Pharming” parties are another good reason for people—especially parents and grandparents—to get rid of unused prescription drugs.


At such parties, teens all bring in pills, put them in a bowl, and take them without knowing what they are.


The street value of drugs such as OxyContin can be as much as $20 a pill, said Conger.


Even if you think your kids won’t use drugs, it’s a good idea to remove the temptation to easy money, he said.


If the drugs must be in the house, keep them under lock and key.


“Nobody is immune from this,” Conger said. “Lock them up. It’s as important as locking up the guns in the house.”



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