Spring clean your medicine cabinet

Safe disposal of medication is a key to maintaining health.

Our spring cleaning “adventure” continued this week as we started cleaning out the cabinets in our office.  It started off as a daunting task, but discarding unnecessary supplies, reorganizing the remainder and ending up with new space is so refreshing!  If you’re continuing with your spring cleaning, you might wonder what to do with old, expired medical supplies.  We’re often asked, “What is the right way to dispose of  expired medications?”

Medications – prescribed, over-the-counter, and/or herbs and supplements – can play an important role in treating certain conditions or diseases.  However, medications and testing supplies cannot be thrown out like everyday garbage: they must be taken with care and disposed of safely. 

Unused portions of medications must be disposed of properly to avoid harm to people, pets, and the water supply.  Most should not be flushed down the toilet.  Make sure to follow specific disposal instructions on the drug label or product insert.  If no disposal instructions are given, follow these steps.

Don’t forget about glucose testing supplies and insulin. Certain brands of glucose test strips may not give an accurate reading if opened for more than 90 days.  The expiration date printed on the test strip label is valid only if never opened.  When you open a container of strips, use a permanent marker to write the date on the label so you’ll know how much time has passed.  Insulin products also have time limitations ranging from 14 to 42 days, depending on the particular type of insulin and if dispensed in a pen device or vial.

If you have additional questions, the instructions inside the product packaging or your pharmacist can give you storage information for medications and supplies.  Safety is key to helping you stay healthy!

Written by: Nancy Trebilcock, RN, BSN, CDE

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2 Responses to Spring clean your medicine cabinet

  1. Nancy Trebilcock says:

    In 2007, there were 255,732 cases of improper medicine use reported to Poison Control Centers in the United States. Approximately 9% of these cases (23,783) involved accidental exposure to another person’s medicine. Approximately 5 thousand of these accidental exposure cases involved children 6 years and younger. In a study that looked at cases of accidental child exposure to a grandparent’s medicine, 45% of cases involved medicines stored in child-resistant containers. Cases of inadvertent exposure to some of these medicines were recently published in the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ 2007 annual report.
    Don’t forget those medicinal products also used for your pets. And check the expiration dates on the canisters of inhaler medications. Depending on the type of product and where you live, some inhalers and aerosol products may be thrown into household trash or recyclables, or may be considered hazardous waste and require special handling. Read the handling instructions on the label, as some inhalers should not be punctured or thrown into a fire or incinerator. To ensure safe disposal, contact your local trash and recycling facility.
    Nancy Trebilcock, BSN,RN,CDE

  2. Elizabeth Patton, MS, RD, LD, CDE says:

    Also, this Saturday, April 30th marks the 2nd National Prescription Drug Take Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During this event, patients and family members can safely dispose of unwanted and unused prescription medications. Click here to find a disposal site near you.

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