Home > Health Library > How to Get Rid of Medicines
You might take prescription or over-the-counter medicines to help manage your health. But there may come a time when you no longer need to take these medicines or they have expired. An expired medicine is past its "use by" or "discard by" date. Medicine that has expired may not work as well and may no longer be safe to use. So don't use or keep medicine that has expired or that you don't need.
It's important to get rid of old or unwanted medicines. This can help prevent other people or animals from using medicines that aren't meant for them. A medicine can be helpful to the person it was prescribed for. But it can cause serious problems if it's used by someone else or an animal.
Check the label on the medicine bottle or box or the information that came with your medicine. It may tell you how to get rid of the medicine safely. If it doesn't, there are a few ways you can get rid of the medicines. If you have any questions about how to get rid of medicines, ask a pharmacist for help.
Find out if your local trash and recycle center offers a medicine take-back program. A take-back program is the best way to safely throw away medicines.
If there isn't a take-back program near you, follow these steps to throw away medicine with the rest of your garbage:
Only a few medicines should be flushed down the sink or toilet if you can't use a take-back program. These medicines include prescription pain medicines, such as oxycodone or morphine.
The FDA says that these kinds of medicines can be more harmful than other medicines if they are taken by someone other than the person they were prescribed for or by an animal. So it's best to flush old or unwanted doses down the sink or toilet right away. When you do this, you take away any chance that a person or an animal might get sick from one of these medicines.
To see a list of medicines that should be flushed down the sink or toilet, go to:www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm.
Other Works Consulted
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2011). Disposal of unused medicines: What you should know. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#MEDICINES.
December 7, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Theresa O'Young, PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy
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