Drug Recycling History

Drug Recycling History

History and Description of Drug Recycling from LTC to Tulsa County Pharmacy

Tulsa County, Oklahoma, for decades, has operated a full service pharmacy for non-controlled medications where the indigent can present a prescription, then buy the product at cost. How does an indigent buy something? They don’t, but family members, agencies, religious groups, and other Guardian Angels pay the bill.

In the 1990’s, George Prothro, MD, the Executive Director of the Tulsa City County Health Department had a vision. It was to transfer unused, unexpired, packaged medications from nursing homes (LTCs) to the Tulsa County pharmacy for re-dispensing to indigent patients of Tulsa County to improve health care.

Michael Lapolla, working in research projects at Oklahoma State University did significant studies, concerning the legality of the vision, a survey of states having such a program, and the benefits of the vision, especially cost savings.

Health Policy Center Publication

This vision has become a win-win-win-win-win-win situation, as it (1) lowers the cost of medication for indigents for Tulsa County, (2) lessens labor at the LTCs and (3) relieves family, friends, agencies, etc. of paying for the medications, allowing their funds to be applied elsewhere, (4) improves the health of Tulsa County residents, (5) saves taxpayer funding, (6) removes pollutants from the sewer system.

At that time, Oklahoma Statutes required the State Board of Health to establish rules and regulations for LTCs, including medication disposal with input from the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy. A supplying pharmacist joined with the director of nurses (DON) to record a disposal manifest, then oversee employees flush the medications. Later, “blister packs” made the job more difficult as they had to cut or punch out the medications, a more difficult and time consuming job.

To arrive at our present status took four legislative sessions, extensive talks with LTC owners, administrators, and director of nurses, pharmaceutical suppliers, regulators, legislators, media, etc.

To establish high safety levels, the transfers are from pharmaceutical supplier to LTC pharmacy to Tulsa County pharmacy. Always under the eye of a licensed person in pharmaceuticals.


We are very pleased with our effort. One special aspect is that a member of the “Golden Oldies”, the retired physicians of the Tulsa County Medical Society, volunteers to transfer the medications and a transfer manifest from the LTC to the Tulsa County pharmacy.

There has been unintended consequences, one being the transfer of non-prescription medications. One could not imagine the unopened bottles of antacids, anti-diarrheals, aspirin, vitamins, etc. that the Director of Nurses ask us to also transfer. These items have been shipped to areas hit by the hurricanes and the shelters for those removed from the storms. Charity clinics are supplied with these items.

We support community disposal of household unusable medications to prevent unintended or intended use by children, teens, the aging, and disabled.  Tulsa offers multiple opportunities for drug disposal.

We publish a poster for distribution. Tulsa Area Household Medication Collection Sites.
See  Household Medication Disposal sites for Tulsa area

The most available is a shared project between the Oklahoma Bureau of Dangerous Drugs and local police agencies.  A surplus mail box is in the agency, accepting drug drop offs mostly every day for 8 hours.  See http://www.ok.gov/obndd/documents/TakeBackBoxes.pdf   for locations.
The MET (Metropolitan Environmental Trust) offers a spring and fall collection at the Tulsa County Fairgrounds.   See 

For more information, contact Linda Johnston, Director of Social Services, Tulsa County, email ljohnston@tulsacounty.org or Jerry Gustafson, MD, retired physician, Tulsa County Medical Society, email orsos@cox.net.  Updated 11-14-2015


Follow us on Facebook