I don't want to start my own needle exchange
June 26, 2007 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What should I do with a large quantity of unused but unneeded insulin syringes?

My cat was diabetic and I gave him twice daily insulin shots with a prescription that I had filled a Walgreen's. The prescription included single-use syringes and I guess they are the same kind that are used for people. My cat died two years ago and I've been carting around the pack of unused syringes ever since. They are still packed 10 to a plastic bag and I have probably about 80 syringes (in 8 packs).

Throwing them in the garbage doesn't seem like a good idea from many perspectives and I really don't want to snap the needle off each one to render it useless before doing so. I've tried calling the pharmacy, they suggested donating to a place like the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. I sent them email and got no response. I'd rather not wander into a park and offer them to the first potential junkie I see but surely there's someone out there who can use them? If it were just the insulin I'd know what to do - it got thrown away a long time ago but I can't figure out how to give them in a responsible manner to someone who might need them. Freecycle? Is it even legal for me to give them to someone else? Is there some cool art project I could do with them?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
Bring them to your local pharmacy, they will be able to dispose of them for you.
posted by tastybrains at 1:29 PM on June 26, 2007

Duh, nevermind, I skimmed the question.

You can always use them to inject oranges with vodka for some alcoholic treats.
posted by tastybrains at 1:30 PM on June 26, 2007

Or donate them to a local animal shelter or animal hospital.
posted by tastybrains at 1:31 PM on June 26, 2007

I'd donate them to a free needle exchange in your area. Try calling one of the following: Alameda County Exchange (510-287-8993), Casa Segura (510-437-8899), NEED Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution (510-678-8563).
posted by meerkatty at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2007

Seconding the needle exchange.
posted by josher71 at 1:51 PM on June 26, 2007

You know anybody who builds/repairs guitars or other stringed instruments? These are great for squeezing incredibly tiny threads of glue when doing work on the frets.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 1:52 PM on June 26, 2007

Response by poster: I keep trying needle exchanges (I've now tried all of meerkatty's suggestions) and come to a dead end. No one returns calls!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2007

Got any endocrine or diabetes clinics around? You must. I'm sure there is SOMEONE there who would need them. I work at one and there are many people who would welcome a few weeks' worth of free meds.
posted by rhoticity at 2:06 PM on June 26, 2007

Try calling the Free Clinic. Sometimes agencies are slow to respond to emails or the emails get misrouted.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:10 PM on June 26, 2007

Response by poster: Yep, just called H-A Free Clinic - ended up in voicemail limbo and finally was routed to an extension where no one answered and the voicemailbox was full. Sigh. It really shouldn't be this hard to do something nice. Surely I'm not the first person that's been in this situation?
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2007

You aren't the first. I had a dog with diabetes and was left with 50 or so syringes. No clinic wanted them, the vet wouldn't take them as they are a liability. Add that to the fact that they are cheap, no one wants to risk it. So I've kept them, and they come in handy now and again. Mostly for getting glue into things like furniture joins and small cracks. I've used them to inject chickens with brine. I haven't tried the vodka into an orange bit yet, but maybe I'll try that too. Get a little creative and they wont be a problem for long.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:38 PM on June 26, 2007

Go to a clinic with the goods and offer them. I just got through with 48 hours of trying to get someone at a food bank to return a phone call about donating some produce. I finally just went to one in person, and was done with the whole thing in less than three minutes.
posted by printdevil at 2:40 PM on June 26, 2007

I know someone who volunteers for the needle exchange in San Francisco - I'll ask, and get back to you.

(Contact info for the SF needle exchange: 415.241.5100 or hpp@sfaf.org.)

Have you called the SPCA to ask if you can donate them back?
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on June 26, 2007

From my volunteer friend:

Ok - manged to read the question. The SF Needle Exchange might take them. Contact info will be on the HRC site. Another option would be PAWS*, who would get them to people to use for their diabetic pets. They may be more able to take them.

Most of these places aren't calling him back because they are low budget and understaffed, not b/c they won't want them.

The OP can certainly dispose of them at any exchange in SF, but that doesn't seem to be the concern.

*Pets Are Wonderful Support
posted by rtha at 5:37 PM on June 26, 2007

The San Francisco Needle Exchange is one of the SF syringe exchange programs, and may take your needles, and the one referred to above. They do excellent work on a very small budget, and are often scrounging for resources, especially syringes and funding for syringes.

Thanks for trying to find a helpful way to dispose of your needles.

FYI for you or anyone else reading this - syringe exchanges will generally take syringes that you need to dispose of. Also, in California, many pharmacies will take them, no questions asked, if they are participating in a special state program.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:10 PM on June 26, 2007

Will a (human) needle exchange program take syringes that were originally meant for veterinary use? I'm sure they're probably just as good and everything, but seems like the pencil-pushers might get squigged out.

I'd call around and offer them up to any local animal shelters/clinics in your area, or maybe veterinary practices that you know of around that do free spay/neuter procedures. I'm sure they could put them to good use.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:21 PM on June 26, 2007

Response by poster: FYI for you or anyone else reading this - syringe exchanges will generally take syringes that you need to dispose of. Also, in California, many pharmacies will take them, no questions asked,
Well, Walgreen's (in SF) said they didn't take them and I'm still trying to get any exchange program to respond to my queries.

Will a (human) needle exchange program take syringes that were originally meant for veterinary use?
Just to be clear, these needles are meant for human use but vets can prescribe them for animal use. They are the same as what Walgreen's dispenses to their human clients. I think that's pretty much what any vet prescribing for cats or dogs does.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:26 PM on June 26, 2007

You might try getting in touch with these guys too. It sounds like they take needles.

A branch in Oklahoma.
posted by edd at 3:13 AM on June 27, 2007

Well, Walgreen's (in SF) said they didn't take them and I'm still trying to get any exchange program to respond to my queries.

Hmm. Any Walgreen's in SF should take your needles for disposal - they are not only a part of the state program but also funded by the city to do so. Here's a pdf about needle disposal in SF. Sorry that yours wasn't helpful. One piece of advice I often give exchangers- go back to the pharmacy counter to get a biohazard container or drop off needles. The front desk people may not know about the program (and can get quite rude/dismissive if they think you may be an injection drug user).

Any exchange in SF will take them off your hands for disposal, but they will just go in the bin with the rest of the syringes that have been brought in. The SFNE site I linked to above has a good listing of the sites in SF. You'll be better off just showing up at one of the sites and handing them over than trying to call ahead of time. They won't be able to use them, though, just to get rid of them.

I think you actually want to put them to some good use, though, and not just dispose of them. PAWS and SFNE are the best suggestions I've got. Many of these programs are volunteer-run, and will probably take a while to get back to you. Hopefully one of them will respond to you soon.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:56 AM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: Okay, so just as a follow-up, I think I found an answer from another message board:

I work for Child Family Health International (CFHI) in San Francisco, and we accept unused medical supplies that we inventory and ship to clinics around the world in South Africa, India, Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico. Unfortunately we cannot pick up supplies, but you may drop them off at our office in SF. Please see the website for details about what we do and do not accept. http://www.cfhi.org/recover.php4 You will receive a thank you for tax deduction purposes as a result of your donation. Thanks on behalf of needy clinics around the globe!! betsy

I checked with them and they accept syringes. Hurrah!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:26 AM on June 27, 2007

Response by poster: And also, to my question about the legality:

There is no express prohibition on the charitable redistribution of prescription medications outside of the United States. As recent AP/New York Times article highlighted, “Giving away leftover pills to individual Americans is against U.S. law, but medicine can be donated to designated nonprofit groups for shipping out of the country as humanitarian aid” (6/12/04).
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

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