APhA promotes medicine cabinet cleanout

Offers tips on how to toss unused, expired meds

WASHINGTON — The oldest national organization of pharmacists is making a New Year’s push to encourage Americans to clear out their old and expired medicines.

To mark the change of the calendar, the American Pharmacists Association has launched a new public outreach effort to get the public to “make an annual medicine cabinet cleanout part of their New Year’s resolutions.” In line with that effort, the APhA said, pharmacists are recommending that patients use this time to properly dispose of all the unused and expired medications that accumulated over the previous year.

“A medicine cabinet cleanout is one of the smallest resolutions a person can make for [his or her] personal and family’s health,” APhA EVP and CEO Tom Menighan said. “It just takes a few simple steps to properly store and dispose of medications.”

The organization, founded in 1852, has issued a set of guidelines for Americans to follow when cleaning out their medicine cabinets. Among them:

  • Store medicines in a secured area that has low humidity, a stable temperature and adequate lighting;

  • Check the date on everything in the medicine cabinet and dispose of anything that has passed the expiration date. Properly dispose of anything not used in the past 12 months;

  • Properly dispose of any prescription medications no longer needed. Do not share prescription medications with others;

  • Properly dispose of medicines no longer in their original containers or those that no longer can be identified;

  • Properly dispose of medicines that have changed color, odor or taste;

  • Do not flush unused or expired medications and do not pour them down a sink or drain. Medications should be disposed of properly in the household trash or through the community’s medication disposal program, when available;

  • Before disposing of medications in the trash, pour them into a sealable plastic bag. If the medication is a solid (pill, liquid capsule, etc.), add water to dissolve it. Add kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds (or any material that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to eat) to the plastic bag; and

  • Remove and destroy all identifying personal information on prescription labels from all medication containers before recycling them or throwing them away.

The APhA also provided a Web address for patients and pharmacists who want to know more about medicines that should be flushed, at SMARxTDisposal.net.

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