June 14, 2017
Three Facts About Expired Medicines
We are all guilty of keeping expired and unwanted medicines in our cupboards and drawers around the home from time to time. Sometimes we keep medicines because we think we may need them in the future or because they were expensive. Alternatively, we may still have old medicines because we simply forgot they were still sitting there! Storing expired medicines might seem trivial but it poses a potential health risk to you and your family. Here are three facts about expired medicines that you might not already know.
- The expiration date is the last day of ‘guaranteed’ potency
The expiration date printed on the medicine bottle or label is the last date that the manufacturer guarantees its full potency and safety. Expired medicines may be less effective or hazardous due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Stick to the rule that if your medicine has expired, don’t use it and dispose of it responsibly – it’s not worth the health risk.
- Most medicines begin to degrade as soon as they are opened or first used
Most medicines, whether they are prescribed by your GP, recommended by a pharmacist or purchased in the supermarket, are sealed. Over time, air exposure will start to slowly degrade the medicine and make it less effective. This means that box of pills or tube of cream you first opened a few years ago probably has no value in your cupboard anymore!
- Storage conditions can make medicines less effective
If you are like most people, you probably store your medicines in a bathroom cabinet. However, the heat and moisture from your shower, bath, and sink may damage your medicines, making them less potent, or perhaps causing them to go bad before their expiration date. Its recommended to always store medicines in a cool, dry place in the home. For example, a bedside table or chest of drawers in the bedroom, or even a cupboard away from the stove, sink, any hot appliances in the kitchen, and ALWAYS store the medicines out of reach of children.
If you have any medicines that you think may be damaged due to storage conditions, return them to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
The good news is…
Australia has a free service for people to dispose of their unwanted medicines safely via pharmacy. Return Unwanted Medicines (or The RUM Project) is a national scheme whereby anyone can return their expired and unwanted medicines to any community pharmacy for safe and environmentally-friendly disposal. Go to your home medicine area and read the labels of your medicines and check expiry dates. Remove any medicines that are expired or you no longer need from their packaging and place them in a container or bag. Return your unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy. Your pharmacist will put them in a secure bin for safe disposal. It’s that easy!
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.
eMedExpert. 2017. Expired Medication. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.emedexpert.com/tips/expired-meds.shtml. [Accessed 18 May 2017].
The Food and Drug Administration. 2016. Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/specialfeatures/ucm481139.htm. [Accessed 18 May 2017].
Leigh Ann Anderson. 2014. Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.drugs.com/article/drug-expiration-dates.html. [Accessed 18 May 2017].
Harvard Health Publications. 2015. Drug Expiration Dates — Do They Mean Anything?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/drug-expiration-dates-do-they-mean-anything. [Accessed 18 May 2017].
Scott Gavura. 2012. The drug expiry date: A necessary safety measure, or yet another Big Pharma conspiracy?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/drug-expiration-dates-do-they-mean-anything. [Accessed 18 May 2017].