Pill bottles lying on side with pills scattered beside them

How to Dispose of out of Date Medication

Medication does not last forever; every prescription and the over-the-counter product you buy has an expiration date.

When you receive a prescription or purchase medicine, you are expected to take all the prescribed medication within the set time frame or to treat the ailment you have until you are feeling well again.

For most people, unused medicine will be put into the cupboard and forgotten about until symptoms recur.  By the time you come back to use the tablets or liquid medicine, they may have passed their expiration date.

If you have found yourself in this position before, you may have asked: can I still use these tablets? Are they safe? What should I do with them?

This blog should help you to understand how to dispose of out of date medication and the steps you can take to avoid medication waste in the future.

Expiry dates

If you have been given your medication by a pharmacy,  you should be adhering to the instructions on the boxes provided.

It usually has a clear expiry date. Prescriptions have a timeframe for taking the medication to avoid unnecessary waste.

Bundle of medication capsules

Why is out of date medication dangerous?

Out of date medication is still medication. You are advised not to just simply throw it in the bin or flush the tablets down the toilet as a quick disposal method. A medication’s effectiveness will slowly deteriorate over time.

This is especially true of medicine that is nearing or is past its use-by date. If you find that your medication has changed colour, has a potent smell or tastes strange even before its use-by date, you should be disposing of the medication as soon as possible.

Why? Out of date, medication can not only be hazardous to your health, but it can give any illness or virus the opportunity to build up an immunity to the antibiotics, given their limited effectiveness.

How to dispose of out of date medication

If your medicine has reached its use-by date, then making a quick visit your local pharmacist is the best course of action when trying to dispose of your tablets and other medicines.

Pharmacists can easily dispose of unused, damaged and out of date medicines for free and with no harm being done to both the environment and others.

If you have been taking prescription medicine, you should be returning the contents of each box even if medicine still remains it is within the manufacturers use-by date, as they have been set by your Pharmacist or GP and should not be ignored.

In closing, here are a few tips from across the blog to help you avoid medicine waste in the future:

  • Make a note of purchased medicine if you have any leftover, so you don’t forget about them.
  • Check for any medication you may have in the cupboards every few months.
  • Make access easy to the medicine(s) you have put away, but make sure you keep them out of reach of children to avoid them using it.
  • Never order prescription medicines to bulk up your stock at home, only order and take what you need at the time.
  • Never flush your out of date medication down the toilet or throw them in the bin.
  • Always bring used or expired medicines to your local pharmacist

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