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Medication Management – Sending Medications Home with Patients

Are organizations allowed to send medications home with patients?

Any examples are for illustrative purposes only.

Upon discharge from an inpatient stay or outpatient encounter, organizations need to determine the disposition of unused or partially used medication.  For example, an inhaler provided by the facility for administration during an inpatient stay contains additional doses at the time the patient is discharged. The options available would be for the facility to discard the inhaler or send the inhaler home with the patient. Another example might be sending a 'couple' antibiotics home just to get the patient started on the medication.
According to FDA regulations, sending medications home with patients, that were not brought into the facility by the patient/family, is considered "dispensing". Therefore, state and federal regulations on dispensing medications should be considered prior to implementing a policy on sending medications home with patients.
If an organization determines they are permitted to dispense medications to patients upon leaving the facility, then all labeling requirements defined by The Joint Commission and State Law must be enforced.  This includes patient education on how to use the medications, what side effects to expect, cautionary instructions, etc.

When determining policies regarding dispensing medications at discharge, organizations should work with their accreditation and pharmacy leadership and legal counsel to ensure all accreditation and regulatory requirements have been addressed. 

Manual: Critical Access Hospital
Chapter: Medication Management MM
New or updated requirements last added: December 07, 2022. New or updated requirements may be based on revisions to current accreditation requirements, regulatory changes, and/or an updated interpretation in response to industry changes. Substantive changes to accreditation requirements are also published in the Perspective Newsletter that is available to all Joint Commission accredited organizations.
Last reviewed by Standards Interpretation: December 07, 2022 Represents the most recent date that the FAQ was reviewed (e.g. annual review).
This page was last updated on December 07, 2022 with update notes of: Reflects new or updated requirements Types of changes and an explanation of change type: Editorial changes only: Format changes only. No changes to content. | Review only, FAQ is current: Periodic review completed, no changes to content. | Reflects new or updated requirements: Changes represent new or revised requirements.
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