Spring clean your medicine cabinet

April 25, 2011

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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