What to do with old medicine?

That’s probably a question you’ve asked yourself at some point of time. You got a prescription medicine but haven’t used up the whole bottle, or maybe you cleaned up your medicine cabinet and found a bunch of expired OTA medicine bottles, or what else. What should you do with it?

Well, do not throw it in the trash as is. Most medicines shouldn’t be thrown away in a regular trash, and in many states doing that is illegal.

What, then?

Apparently there’re several options.

1. Many cities, counties and states have programs to collect the unwanted medications from the public, free of charge. I live in California, and here’s the California government resource on medical waste management. It includes the list of places where you can get rid of your unwanted medical supplies (most of the locations managed by the respective local county or city governments). If you leave in a different state – check out your state’s government Internet site for a similar page. Nation-wide information can be found on “The Drug Take Back Network” site.

2. You can mail the unwanted medicine. Mail-in kits are being sold on-line and in pharmacies. In Kaiser Pemanente pharmacy, for example, you can find a kit for less than $5, including prepaid postage.

3. You can leave the unwanted medicine at many local police stations and pharmacies. Ask your local police/pharmacists about the options.

4. You can buy online or prepare yourself a disposal kit that will allow throwing the medicine into the trash safely. Walgreens have an explanation on line on how to prepare it, CVS has a similar article, and several companies sell kits as well (example 1, example 2). Make sure to remove any personal information (including the Rx number) from the bottle before throwing it away.

Remember – throwing the medicine to trash or flushing it down the toilet will contaminate the environment, endanger animals and people, and create pollution. In some places it is illegal. Although FDA approves flushing certain kinds of medicine down the toilet, just get rid of it as any other medication, through the proper channels.

Be safe, and feel well,

Your Little Advisor.

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