Got Unneeded or Expired Medications?

November 2018

Your Pharmacist Can Help

Normally, you take a prescription until the pills are gone. But your doctor may change your dose, switch you to a new medication before you finish the first one or prescribe a few extra pills—and then you may have medication left over. You may also have a medicine cabinet full of expired medication from the past.

It’s best not to keep these unneeded or expired medications around the house. Some drugs may be especially harmful if taken by someone other than the person for whom the drug was prescribed. And you don’t want to take one of these medications by accident because it is still in your medicine cabinet.

Unused prescription and over-the-counter medication can be especially dangerous to children and pets. Unused pain medication can even be a target for theft. What to do? Fortunately, there are two easy ways to clear such medications out of your home while disposing of them legally and safely.

Local Medication Take-Back Programs

Many community-based drug “take-back” programs offer a helpful option. Take advantage of these programs, which allow the public to take unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal. Call your local law-enforcement agencies to see if they sponsor medicine take-back programs in your community. Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to learn about medication-disposal options and guidelines for your area.

Ask Your Pharmacist

Your local pharmacy provides medication take-back services as well. Ask your pharmacist for details. Be sure to bring your medications in the original prescription bottle. Some questions you may want to ask:

  • Are there certain medications that can’t be taken back at the pharmacy, such as certain painkillers?
  • May I bring in liquid medications, or only pills?
  • May I bring in prescription ointments, creams, etc?

Helping the Environment While Keeping Your Family Safe

Disposing of unwanted medications, through your pharmacy or through a government-sponsored take-back program, is the best way to protect the environment from possible contamination. These disposal options can help alleviate environmental concerns that pop up when people put certain medications in the trash or flush them down the toilet. While some medications are harmless, it’s best to be cautious and let the experts do the final sorting and proper disposal.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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