CommunityDisposing of Expired Medications

Many people wonder what they should do with all the leftover and expired medications in their medicine cabinet. Should you keep it or toss it? Bring it back to your pharmacy? Is it even still good to take?

Before you choose to dispose of a medication, how can you tell if it is still safe for consumption? As your medication sits in that vial, it slowly loses its potency over time. Some medications are only good for a certain amount of time from the opening date. If you look on your prescription label, you will find an expiration date. This warrants that the drug is safe and effective during its intended shelf life.

How can you ensure your medications remain in tip-top condition to do what they are supposed to do? Location has a big impact on how effective your medicine is. One of the worst places to store your medications is in your bathroom. Moisture and temperature fluctuation can cause substantial changes in the drug’s chemistry; resulting in a less effective medication.

It is also important to follow any storage instructions, such as the need for refrigeration, that are on the prescription label. Most medications can be stored at room temperature, away from any moisture or light. If you are not sure, a quick call to the pharmacy can resolve any questions you may have.

When your medications are no longer needed, they should be disposed of promptly. Keeping medications after they are no longer needed creates an unnecessary health risk at home. Expired, unwanted, or unused medications should be removed as soon as possible to help reduce the chance of accidental consumption or intentional misuse – safe disposal of medications also helps to protect our environment.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when disposing of old and unused medications:

  1. Follow the specific disposal instruction listed on your prescription label (if present).
  2. Take advantage of the medicines take back programs – In 2010, the Pharmaceutical Services Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) has implemented the Return Your Medicines Program. Through this program, patients can return their unused or excess medications to pharmacy counter or medicine return box provided at all MOH hospitals and health clinics.
  3. If your medication does not have any specific disposal instructions and there are no available take-back programs near you, you can dispose of them in your household trash:
    • Remove unwanted medication from its container. Scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.
    • Mix medication with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter, used coffee grounds or other unpalatable home waste. DO NOT crush tablets or capsules.
    • Place the mixture in a container such as a plastic bag. Seal well to avoid leaching. Discard with normal household trash.

We have only one Earth, together, we can contribute to care and conserve our environment. Let us start by handling the unused medications the right way. Feel free to speak to one of our staff and obtain your complimentary used coffee grounds at Accent Wellness. From little things, big things grow!