It’s spring cleaning time again and there’s a new spot to add to your “To Do” list this year. The medicine cabinet.
Most everyone has a spot where they put prescription and over-the-counter medications collected over years of family illnesses. It’s probably on the top shelf of your kitchen or bathroom closet and a little disorganized, full of Ibuprofen bottles you stocked up on during a sale.
More often than not, those bottles remain hidden until you really need some and you start searching frantically through the mess. Then, when you finally find a bottle, it’s likely expired. Now what?
Don’t use expired medications
Dr. Matt Pepper, a pharmacist at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, says certain medications have small windows of efficacy. Using expired medications can be dangerous and put individuals at risk, as efficacy may decrease and medications may not perform as expected. If stored in hot or humid places, like the bathroom, the stability of medications can also be affected. Such medications include antibiotics, blood thinners and various heart and thyroid products.
“Antibiotics in particular should be taken while in date and for the full course of therapy,” says Dr. Pepper. “Partial therapies of antibiotics can increase bacterial resistance, which makes the infections harder to treat in the future.”
You may be tempted to use medications after they have expired or may not realize that they have expired. Either way, we advise against using expired products.
Disposal of unused medications
It’s important to dispose of any expired medications properly to help reduce harm from accidental exposure or intentional misuse. The easiest and most effective way to dispose of unused medications is to take them to your local police department. Most will accept unused medications and incinerate them properly. Another option is Intermountain’s Outpatient Pharmacies. All of them have disposal collection bins where you can leave your unused or expired medications to ensure they are disposed of properly. Both options are free of charge.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists additional methods and special instructions to consider when disposing of expired, unwanted or unused medications.
Take the opportunity to clean out and organize your medicine cabinet this spring. Make it a part of your spring cleaning list, right after taking down the Christmas lights and before cleaning under the refrigerator. You’ll be glad you took this important step to protect yourself and your family from expired medications.