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Are your medicines out of date? Here's how to dispose of them safely

Grey tin medicine box with hand reaching inside
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We all have that cupboard or drawer in a home where we pop everyday medicines or treatments like paracetamol, plasters or cough syrup

But how often do you check the expiry dates on the packaging and have a clear out? Do you know the a correct way and place to store them? Keeping old medicines or worse taking them can be putting our health at risk.

Our pharmacist Anshu Kaura gives her top tips on medicines expiry dates, how to store medicines and how to safely dispose of medication.

Make sure you read the instruction leaflet

Different medicines need to be stored in different ways, for example some prescription medicines need to be kept in a refrigerator. It’s important to make sure you check the instructions that come with the medication box for advice on where the medicines should be stored. Also, always keep your medicines with the packet and instructions so you can refer back to them easily.

Don’t keep medicines in the bathroom

A popular place to store medicines is in the bathroom, however this isn’t the best environment for most medications. Many will need to be kept in a cool, dark and dry place. Bathrooms can have high levels of heat and moisture which can cause damage to the medicines or packaging.

Keep out of reach of children and pets

It’s important to keep your medicines out of the way and reach of children and pets, even if the medicine is meant for them. For example, a high, lockable cupboard in a cool, dry place is ideal to store your medicines in.

It’s time to clear out your medicine cabinet

On average pharmacists are asked twice a week about medicine expiry dates and whether it is safe to take out of date medicines, with some customers even asking if they can take unused medicines as old as 1930 and 1960!*

It is estimated that there is a staggering £300m worth of medicines unused in the UK every year.

Check expiry dates

Always check the expiry date on medicines both over the counter and prescription medication. Many medicines become ineffective when they pass their expiry date which can be a risk to your health. They could also do harm if they are taken by someone they were not intended for.

Try to clear out your medicine cabinet every six months

It is best to check your medicine supplies at least every six months to ensure that you only store those that are in date and still needed, particularly if you take regular prescription or multiple medicines. Plus, remember to check the dates on medicines you’ve bought like paracetamol or cold and flu relief.

Don’t forget to get a medicine box

Do you have a safe place for your medicines? You can get a medicines box to help keep your medicines in order.

Shop now

How to safely dispose of your medication

Don’t throw your meds in the bin, down the sink or toilet

Throwing medicines away incorrectly such as in the bin could lead to them being found by children or those that they are not intended for. Flushing meds or pouring them down the sink also poses risks to the environment.

Take old or unwanted meds to pharmacy

Once you’ve got your medicines stored correctly you'll see which medicines are no longer needed, out of date or damaged should be taken to your local LloydsPharmacy where they can be disposed of safely.

Find your local LloydsPharmacy

If you have any questions about how to dispose of your medicines correctly, speak to your local pharmacist in store or over the phone.

References

*Survey of 134 LloydsPharmacy Pharmacists, October 2020. Commissioned by LloydsPharmacy, conducted by Survey Monkey.
https://theconversation.com/do-drugs-go-off-what-happens-to-medicines-after-their-use-by-dates