The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) encourages the public to make an annual medicine cabinet cleanout part of their New Year's resolutions. Pharmacists recommend patients use this time to properly dispose of all the unused and expired medications that accumulated over the previous year.
Because each season brings a host of new illnesses and conditions, it's easy for medicine cabinets to become cluttered with unused or expired prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbals that can potentially be harmful to one's health. Hanging onto old, expired or unused medications can increase the chances of taking the wrong one. Old, expired medications can lose their potency thus reducing or providing no value to the condition being treated and unused medications have the potential to be abused and misused.
"As you finalize your resolutions for a happier and healthier New Year, why not add this simple task to your list?" asked Thomas E. Menighan, APhA Executive Vice President and CEO. "A medicine cabinet cleanout is one of the smallest resolutions a person can make for their personal and family's health. To help protect yourselves and the environment, it just takes a few simple steps to properly store and dispose of medications. And if you have any questions about your medications' expiration date or potency, talk with your pharmacist."
Tips for Storing and Cleaning Out Your Medicine Cabinet or Other Medication Storage Areas:
- Medications should be stored in a secured area that has low humidity, a stable temperature and adequate lighting.
- Check the date on everything in your medicine cabinet and dispose of anything that has passed the expiration date.
- Properly dispose of anything you have not used in the past 12 months.
- Properly dispose of any prescription medications you no longer need. Do not share prescription medications with others.
- Properly dispose of medicines no longer in their original container or that can no longer be identified.
- Properly dispose of medicines that have changed color, odor or taste.
- Do not flush unused or expired medications and do not pour them down a sink or drain. They should be disposed of properly in the household trash or through your community's medication disposal program, when available. Follow these easy steps before disposing in the trash:
- Pour medication into a sealable plastic bag. If medication is a solid (pill, liquid capsule, etc.), add water to dissolve it.
- Add kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds (or any material that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to eat) to the plastic bag.
- Seal the plastic bag and put it in the trash.
- Remove and destroy ALL identifying personal information (prescription label) from all medication containers before recycling them or throwing them away.