Many of us may be hanging onto expired medicines, perhaps for “future use”. Like the antibiotics we stopped taking as soon as we felt better, rather than finishing the full course as prescribed. There are packets of those gathering dust in the medicine cupboard. Or, when that three-month supply of drugs prescribed to treat our long-term health condition didn’t suit us, we had a more effective drug prescribed but didn’t return the unused medication.
Do you have old medicines lurking in the depths of a bathroom cabinet or in a drawer? If we “stockpile” unused medicines, we risk taking an expired and therefore ineffective drug, or using something for the wrong purpose or at the incorrect dosage, perhaps because the labelling has faded. The dangers of overdosing in these circumstances are real.
Then there’s the issue of cost. Wasted medicines cost New Zealand around $40 million a year – about five per cent of the total drug budget – a not insignificant amount that could be put to better use elsewhere in the health system.
- Don’t store medicines for later use. We recommend that patients finish their medicines as prescribed, or return them to us immediately if there’s an adverse reaction. While it is a good idea to maintain supplies of pain relief, antihistamines and other "emergency" type medications as long as they are all in-date and out of reach of young children, don't keep other unused medicines at home.
The risks of throwing medicines away
Many people end up disposing of unused medication in ways that are harmful to the environment and people. Chucking expired medicines in the rubbish or flushing them down the toilet introduces potentially harmful substances into our waterways, landfills, and soil.
So, what should we be doing with unused, unwanted or old medicines?
The right way to get rid of medicines
Don’t throw drugs away – bring them in to us. We accept any unwanted and expired over-the-counter and prescription medicines, sharps such as needles, and chemotherapy drugs. We’ll dispose of them safely for you, and it won’t cost you a cent.
Read more health advice from Clive's Chemist: