We’ve all got them…those half-used bottles of medicines that hang about the house for using ‘one day’. The packets of tablets that we didn’t finish that have now lost their label. The antacid we bought once and then forgot about. They clutter up the medicine cabinet or overflow from the cupboards and we never seem to get around to doing anything about them.
While it may seem wasteful to dispose of unused medicines, saving them ‘just in case’ can be dangerous. Most medicines deteriorate with time, which can lead to changes in their chemical composition. Use them after their expiry date and at the very least they may be less effective – at the very worst, toxic. Further, storing medicines in the home can be a source of poisonings for children.
So – it’s time for a spring clean. Follow these steps to do your own medicine cabinet audit.
- Search far and wide Gather together all the medicines in your home including everything from your handbag, car, bedside table, first aid and travel kits. Don’t forget the vitamin supplements and herbal remedies as well.
- Read the expiry dates Check the labels and packaging of all products for their expiry dates. Note that if the expiry date is given as a month and a year, then you can expect the product to last until the end of that month.
- Have some products expired? Pick out all the products that are past their expiry date and put them to one side.
- Are some products no longer relevant? Go through the remaining medicines and check whether you really need them. Medicines you have taken in the past may no longer be right for you. If you’re in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Put these aside as well.
- Are some products OK? Take all products that are both current and useable and return them to the medicine cabinet or another convenient location.
- Dispose of unwanted products After your medicine cabinet stocktake, any products that have expired or which are no longer of use to you should be returned to your pharmacist for disposal. Flushing your pills and potions down the sink or toilet or putting them out with the rubbish is harmful to the environment, particularly streams and soils. The Return Unwanted Medicines or The RUM Project, is a free Australia-wide service, where pharmacies collect out-of-date, unwanted and left-over medicines and then arrange for them to be disposed of safely in high-temperature incinerators.