June 14, 2017

Millions of Old Meds in Aussie Homes Pose Health Hazard

New campaign urges Aussies to return unwanted medicines to pharmacy

To educate Australians of the dangers associated with storing expired and unwanted medicines in their home and drive awareness of how to dispose of medicines responsibly, Return Unwanted Medicines has partnered with Channel 7 Sunrise presenter Natalie Barr in a new campaign.

“It is estimated that there are millions of medicines sitting in Australian homes – either out-of-date or no longer needed. This poses a significant risk of accidental poisonings and medication mismanagement,” said Ms Barr.

According to the Poisons Information Centre, more than 5,000 children end up in hospital due to medicine poisonings every year in Australia. Additionally, most accidental poisonings occur in children younger than five years old, with children aged one to three years being at the greatest risk.

“I was shocked when I heard the number of incidences of medicine poisonings in children and even more so when I found out some of these cases could have easily been prevented,” said Ms Barr.

“After learning about the potential dangers of storing unwanted medicines, I teamed up with Return Unwanted Medicines to help drive awareness of the issue and explain just how simple it is to return medicines you no longer need to your local pharmacy. This ensures that they are disposed of in a safe and environmentally-friendly way.”


Majority of Australians unaware of how to dispose of medicines responsibility 

A recent Griffith University study of over 4,300 Australians* found more than 80% of people are completely unware of the RUM Project and do not know how to dispose of unwanted medicines safely and appropriately.

“Last year alone, over 700 tonnes of medicines were collected and safely disposed of by the RUM Project, preventing it from ending up in waterways or landfill. If that’s only medicines collected from around 20% of the population, imagine how many more are hiding in bathroom cabinets and kitchen drawers across the country,” said Toni Riley, Project Manager, RUM, and community pharmacist.

The Griffith University study also revealed that most respondents (67%) said they disposed of unwanted medicines with the usual household garbage; followed by being poured down the drain or toilet (23.3%) and less than a quarter (23%) actually disposed of their medication by returning it to a pharmacy.


Three steps to a safer home and cleaner environment

Go to your home medicine area…

READ the labels of medicines, check the expiry dates and consider whether the medication is needed.

REMOVE all expired and unwanted medicines and place them in a container

or bag.

RETURN all expired and unwanted medicine to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will put your medicines in a secure bin for safe disposal.


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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