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Here’s what to do with old and expired medicine

In general, we know that hoarding is a bad habit. While hoarding regular belongings and household items may be unhealthy and untidy, when it comes to hoarding medicines, there can be very serious health consequences.


Most households collect various medicines over the years, as they experience different health conditions. It might be antibiotics for an infection, medication for a chronic illness, or even natural medicines like vitamins or herbal blends. Rather than storing these old or expired medicines in the home, it’s important to dispose of them safely. Not only does this help to protect your family’s health, but it’s also better for the environment.

Do medicines expire?

All medicines have a use-by date, it is required by law. This isn’t just an arbitrary date that the manufacturer guesses, but rather a date by which the medicine needs to be consumed. Beyond this date, the medicine breaks down due to things like heat, oxygen, or sunlight, and taking the medicine can be less effective at best, or fatal at worst.


Some medicines expire faster than others, so it’s essential to check the use-by date on each medicine.

Where can I find the use by or expiry date?

By law, every medicine needs to have an expiry date on the packaging. It could be on the lid, on the label or carton, or at the end of a tube. If you can’t find it, your local Capital Chemist pharmacist can help.

What if I get sick again?

There are a few reasons that we tend to see people hanging onto medicines beyond their use-by date, or well after they need them. One is in case they need to use the medicine in the future. For most medicines, and in particular prescription medicines, these are prescribed or suggested by a GP or pharmacist to treat particular symptoms for a particular individual, at a particular point in time.


Just because you took medicine when you were presenting a certain symptom at one point in your life, doesn’t mean that it’s the right medicine for you at a different time. Of course, there are some exceptions — for example, most people keep paracetamol on ibuprofen on hand for mild headaches or antihistamines for seasonal allergies. However, if you’re presenting more serious symptoms or a different combination of symptoms, or if the medicine was prescribed to you by a doctor in the past, it’s a good idea to speak to your pharmacist or doctor before you take any medicines.


Of course, if the medicine is expired and has passed its use-by date, it should not be taken, and should instead be properly disposed of immediately.

When should I dispose of medicines?

For most medicines, including prescription medicines, it’s a good idea to dispose of them when you no longer need them. All medicines that have expired should be disposed of.

How do I dispose of unwanted or expired medicines?

Don’t simply throw them in the bin, as this can lead to environmental damage. Instead, return your expired or unwanted medicines to your local Capital Chemist. Your Capital Chemist pharmacist will keep them in a secure bin for collection and safe disposal. Not only is this a convenient way for you to dispose of your unwanted or expired medicines, but it’s also completely free.


For more information, speak to your local Capital Chemist pharmacist, or visit https://capitalchemist.com.au/services.aspx?title=Return-Unwanted-Medicines-(RUM) or returnmed.com.au.


You may also be interested in the following:

How to spring clean your medicine cabinet


  
 
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