An organised and functional medicine cabinet should be a priority item in all homes.
But while many of us have medicine cabinets, we often do not maintain them.
To avoid your medicine cabinet and unused medicines becoming a health hazard, it’s important that you only store the medicines you need while discarding the expired or unused medicines.
A Department of Health study titled ‘Adverse drug events and medication errors in Australia’ found that between 2-4 per cent of all hospital admissions were medication-related. Among patients aged 75 years and over, the figure was more than 30 per cent.
It’s estimated there are more than 230,000 medication-related hospital admissions each year at a cost of about $1.2 billion to the healthcare system. Some of these may result from unused medicines which can be a source of poisoning of children and can be confusing for elderly patients.
There are number of ways to avoid confusion. One of the most efficient ways is by returning your old medicines to your community pharmacy for safe disposal.
Along with dispensing medicines, community pharmacies also dispose of medicines that consumers wish to discard by sending them to special high-temperature incinerators. These incinerators are used because unused medicines can contaminate the environment when disposed of in landfills or via sewers. Unused medicines can be taken to any pharmacy which will dispose of them via incinerator free of charge.
Medications that are out of date are not only likely to be less effective, they have the potential to be dangerous to you or others.
Old medicines can become a hazard in your medicine cabinet over time because it can be difficult to remember who or what they were intended for. Worse still, once forgotten about, they can be picked up by children and taken accidently.
Just remember these three key points when clearing out your cabinet:
- Check expiry dates on all your medicines and separate all expired medicines into a container for return.
- Check that you actually need all the medicines – separate those medicines no longer needed into the container for return.
Take the container to your local pharmacy for disposal.
Find out more on how to dispose of your medicines by visiting the Return Unwanted Medicines project.