August 23, 2017

What you should know about expired and unwanted medicines with Natalie Barr and Caroline Diamantis

When was the last time you checked your home medicine cabinet for unused or expired medicines? With all the life admin and housekeeping duties we have to keep on top of, it often slip our minds to review our medicine cabinet. The fact is, storing medicines that are old or no longer needed can be risky.

Channel 7 Sunrise presenter and Return Unwanted Medicines spokesperson Natalie Barr caught up with Sydney community pharmacist Caroline Diamantis about what we should know about expired and unwanted medicines.

  • So how do we know if medicines are expired?

Checking the expiry date on the label of your medicines. Every medicine that you purchased – whether it is prescription or over the counter will have an expiry date. It might be hard to identify – sometimes dates are hidden or embossed – so look carefully for it. If you are still unsure, visit your local pharmacist and they will be able to assist you.

  • Why is it harmful to consume old medicines?

Medicines that are expired may not work as effectively in times of need. Old medicines are likely to decompose or degrade, and may sometimes also be hazardous due to a change in chemical composition.

  • Why is it dangerous to store unwanted medicines in your home?

Unused medicines are medicines that we have no use for anymore. By storing them in your home amongst the medicines that you are currently taking, it may cause confusion or result in someone reaching for the wrong medicine. Accidental ingestion of these medicines by young children or elderly people is also a potential risk of storing unwanted medicines in your home.

  • So, what should you do to ensure these medicines are properly disposed of?

Read your medicine labels, review expiry dates and consider whether you need all your medicines.

Remove any expired and unwanted medicines from your home and place them in a bag or container. If the medicine comes in a cardboard box, that can be recycled separately.

Return these expired and unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will ensure they are put in a secure bin for safe and environmentally-friendly disposal.

Watch Natalie Barr’s Q&A video with Caroline below and to find out more about Return Unwanted Medicines, visit our About page.


The Return of Unwanted Medicines Project is a free service that offers a way to dispose of unwanted or expired medicines safely and conveniently at your local community pharmacy. Find out more about the service here.

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