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Safety

The Right and Wrong Way

to Throw Away Medicine

By Dr. Elaine D. Mackowiak

Expired medicines should be thrown away, as long as you know how and where to dispose of them. The first step is to check the expiration dates on all medicine bottles and containers in the cabinet and around your home.

Dispose of pills and tablets by wrapping them tightly in newspaper and binding with tape so they are completely concealed and difficult to get into. This is to make it very hard for kids and animals to access them. Then throw the pills in the trash. Liquid medicines should be mixed with cat litter so they are transformed into solid material that can be discarded in the same way as the pills.

Never pour old medications down a sink drain or flush them down a toilet, because traces of these drugs could end up in the water supply.

Meanwhile, it’s important to be aware that some medications can become ineffective before an expiration date if they are not stored properly. For instance, aspirin is particularly likely to lose its potency if moisture gets into the container and comes into contact with the medication. Keep aspirin in a dry place (not the steamy bathroom) and make sure the cap on the bottle is always tightly closed.

Dr. Elaine D. Mackowiak is a registered pharmacist and a professor in the department of pharmacy practice at Temple University® School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia.