What to do with unused and expired medication
Saturday, February 16 2013 8:54 AM
Have you ever wondered what you should do with medications that have expired or that you are no longer using? Throwing them in the trash or flushing them down the toilet may seem like a good option, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed guidelines to help minimize the harmful impacts of discarded medication on the environment, including plant, animal and human life.
Here is an outline of the guidelines from the FDA:
- Follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless this information specifically instructs you to do so.
- Take advantage of community drug take-back programs that allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to see if a take-back program is available in your community. The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with state and local law enforcement agencies, is sponsoring National Prescription Drug Take Back Days throughout the United States.
- If no instructions are given on the drug label and no take-back program is available in your area, throw the drugs in the household trash, but first:
Take them out of their original containers and mix them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will be less appealing to children and pets, and unrecognizable to people who may intentionally go through your trash.
Put them in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
FDA’s Deputy Director of the Office of Compliance Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., offers some additional tips:
- Before throwing out a medicine container, scratch out all identifying information on the prescription label to make it unreadable. This will help protect your identity and the privacy of your personal health information.
- Do not give medications to friends. Doctors prescribe drugs based on a person’s specific symptoms and medical history. A drug that works for you could be dangerous for someone else.
- When in doubt about proper disposal, talk to your pharmacist. The same disposal methods for prescription drugs could apply to over-the-counter drugs as well.
Click here to visit the FDA’s Web site for more information.
By Jamie Joyce, RN, BSN
Home Care/Hospice Manager
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