The temperature outside may not feel like Spring, but our clocks have moved forward and our days are getting longer. You may be cleaning out closets and doing your annual window washing, but are you taking the time to clean out your medicine cabinet, too?
In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring an expiration date on prescription and over-the counter medicines. “The medicine expiration date is a critical part of deciding if the product is safe to use and will work as intended,” says Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., Deputy Director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. The expiration date can be found printed on the label or stamped onto the bottle or carton, sometimes following “EXP.” It is important to know and stick to the expiration date on your medicine. Using expired medical products is risky and possibly harmful to your health.
Expired medicines can be risky
Expired medications can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth, and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance. “Once the expiration date has passed there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe and effective,” says Bernstein. “If your medicine has expired, do not use it.”
In addition, many Americans may not be not aware that medicines that sit in their medicine cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. With the rise of prescription drug abuse in the United States, the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses has dramatically increased. Oftentime, the abused prescription drugs are unknowingly obtained from family and friends, whether taking medications out of a purse, or a home medicine cabinet.
Finally, expired medicines are also not just a risk to the person they were prescribed for —they can injure children and pets if taken by mistake. For all these reasons, proper disposal of unneeded and expired medicines is essential!
What to do with expired meds
First, read the medicine’s label and follow any specific disposal instructions that may be included. A drug take-back program, if available, is the preferred way to dispose of expired, unwanted or unused medicine. From 10am – 2pm on April 28th at Village Pharmacy in Hampstead, we are participating in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The event addresses a vital public safety and public health issue by focusing attention on the importance of keeping your communities safe and reminding everyone to get rid of unneeded and outdated medicines. Through this important program many tons of unneeded and out-date drugs have been removed for proper disposal.
When drug take-back programs aren’t available, federal guidelines recommend throwing the medicines away in the household trash after mixing them with a substance like dirt or kitty litter and then sealing the mixture in a container like a zipper baggie.
Follow these instructions for disposing of most medications in the household trash:
- Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance like dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds.
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
- Throw the container in your household trash.
- Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.
For a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing, as well as other information on proper disposal, please see the FDA’s Disposal of Unused Medicines page.
A place for everything
Proper storage is one way to help make sure your medicines will remain safe and effective up to their expiration date. Be sure to read the label to see if there are specific storage instructions for your medicine. Certain medicines need to be stored in the refrigerator and others cannot be exposed to high temperatures. Improper storage – such as a damp bathroom cabinet – can contribute to decreased effectiveness in medicines that have not reached their posted expiration date. For most medicines, to help ensure the proper shelf life of your medicine, it is better to store medicine in a cool, dry place such as a dresser drawer, storage box, closet shelf, or kitchen cabinet.
When storing medicine in a kitchen cabinet make sure that it is away from hot appliances and the sink due to changing temperatures and humidity, which can affect the medicine. When storing medicine in a high traffic area, like a kitchen, care should be taken to prevent access by children at risk of accidental poisoning or others who may be tempted to take for abuse/misuse.
Remember to store medicines properly and don’t use expired medicines — it’s not worth the risk!
Hope to see you on April 28th!
Source: FDA and WebMD