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Q&A: Caitlin Carroll, director of public affairs at PhRMA, on the MyOldMeds safe medication disposal initiative

Sep 25, 2017

Caitlin Carroll is director of public affairs for PhRMA and serves as the spokesperson for MyOldMeds, a campaign that seeks to educate the public about proper medication disposal. Carroll spoke with Interact for Health about how the campaign works to encourage proper medication disposal amid the opioid misuse epidemic.

Interact for Health: Can you explain more about MyOldMeds and its goals?

Caitlin Carroll: MyOldMeds is a program to give people more information and direct them toward resources to help educate them about proper disposal of their medicines. The campaign also addresses how to store medicine properly and how to safeguard personal information.

MyOldMeds started with a program in New York in about 2012, and since then we've expanded to eight states.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned from your work with MyOldMeds? What positive results have you seen?

Carroll: I think one of the things that's been so great -- particularly in Kentucky and the Cincinnati area -- is that we really had support from state government and law enforcement officials. There was really a strong show of support across all of the stakeholders who are involved in Kentucky's public safety and public health, and I think that really strengthened the program and raised the platform and the awareness about what we were doing.

With the campaign overall we have seen an increase in awareness about the need for proper disposal and an increased familiarity about takeback kiosks, which are secure disposal sites, and how to dispose of medication properly at a location that is certified by your local law enforcement and the DEA.

Interact for Health: Could you tell me a brief story that illustrates the effect of MyOldMeds in a local community?

Carroll: Last fall we launched MyOldMeds Kentucky in Frankfort at the state Capitol with a press event. We had a local sheriff do an in-person display of proper medication disposal with an in-home disposal kit and we had one of our vice presidents from PhRMA make a few remarks. It got a lot of good local media coverage, which is so useful because then when people are watching the evening news, they're learning about this topic. Events like that can really make a difference and help get the word out.

Interact for Health: What accomplishments of MyOldMeds are you most proud of?

Carroll: We really try to reach people where they are and get creative with how we get our message out. We have done a lot with advertising and incorporating so many different aspects of reaching people. For instance, in Los Angeles we launched a campaign that not only included blog posts and area-specific information and social media outreach; it also included radio ads and signs on the sides of a bus.

Interact for Health: What about your work with MyOldMeds excites you or is most fulfilling?

Carroll: I think the great thing about MyOldMeds is how simple it is. It can really be boiled down to an easy-to-understand message, and that makes it so much more effective for us to reach people.

The truth is medications should only be taken as they're prescribed by the person to whom they're prescribed. Raising awareness about that and making sure people don't accidentally take medicine in ways that isn't intended to be used can really make a difference in preventing prescription drug abuse and addiction at a time when it matters most.

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