Date of Conferral





Public Health


David O. Anderson


The use of pharmaceutical products has steadily increased in the United States from 2 billion prescriptions in 1999 to 3.9 billion in 2009. Half of patients do not comply with the recommended prescription regimen and dispose of unused drugs in the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many researchers have highlighted the human-health risks associated with improperly disposing of pharmaceutical products. This quantitative cross-sectional study examined the potential correlations between people's actual disposal practices and their knowledge of the impact of disposal practices on the environment and human health, and availability of disposal options. The conceptual framework selected for this study comprised 2 models: the health belief model and the theory of planned behavior. Respondents to an online survey were 485 residents of the northeast United States, polled from the general population. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used to model responses from the dependent variable actual disposal practice (ADP) across the independent variables, and analysis of variance explored whether ADP differed across demographic variables. Statistically significant associations emerged among individuals' knowledge of environment and human-health impact, recommended disposal practices, disposal options, and that person's likelihood to practice recommended disposal. Demographic variables did not impact disposal behavior. To promote positive social change, it is recommended that policymakers plan and implement the expansion of convenient drug disposal options, as well as information campaigns on proper disposal practices. In parallel, health care professionals should stress to their patients the importance of complying with prescribed regimens, thus minimizing the amount of unused or expired medications.