DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens on Wednesday released a survey that found 2-in-5 American households have at least one bottle of expired over-the-counter medicine in their medicine cabinets. In addition, when consumers dispose of medication, more than 60% of those surveyed said they disposed of medications in the household garbage.
The most common OTC medications that shoppers had on hand include pain relievers, cough-cold treatments and allergy relief.
Walgreens’ research is timely, especially considering the amount of awareness presently being raised around those medicine cabinets and proper medicine disposal. This Saturday, Nov. 13, the American Medicine Chest Challenge — a public health initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse — will be held in thousands of communities. And while AMCC’s primary focus is the prevention of teenage abuse of those medicines found in mom and dad’s medicine cabinet, the challenge still will prompt many of those parents to poke around, and thereby discover those expired medicines.
The initiative is asking parents to take a five-step challenge — take stock of those medicines in the home; secure the medicine chest; take medicine only as prescribed or according to the drug facts label; dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medicine; and talk to their children around the dangers of medicine. Partnering with AMCC around the initiative are the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Partnership at DrugFree.org and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
In September, Walgreens launched the first ongoing, nationwide Safe Medication Disposal Program, a safe and environmentally responsible alternative way to dispose of unused or expired medications. For $2.99, customers can purchase a specially designed envelope available at any Walgreens pharmacy counter that allows them to place, seal and mail prescription or over-the-counter medications they no longer use for safe, eco-friendly disposal. Outside of the recent Walgreens solution, information on where to dispose of medicines can be found on AmericanMedicineChest.com.
The Walgreens survey also found that 55% of consumers suggested they knowingly would use those expired drugs, especially if the expiration date was within a few months passed. And though most parents more frequently tend to check expiration dates, more than one-third said they have given their children medication that had expired in the previous six months.
“With cough-cold and flu season now well under way, consumers should check for medications on hand, note expiration dates and replace commonly used medications as needed to make sure they’re prepared to immediately meet their family’s needs in the event of an illness,” stated Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus. “Coming down with an illness and not having an OTC pain reliever or cough-cold medication readily available only makes the situation worse,” Pegus said. “To ensure that you have safe medications at home, you should check your medicines for expiration dates with each change of season.”