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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tossing It Out Tuesday: Bad Medicine

         Some of you may have some expired medicine in your cabinets.  We try to regularly weed through and toss out prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs that we have not finished.  Pictured here is our latest crop to be disposed of.   We never have a huge supply of expired pharmaceuticals on hand--not like some people I've seen.  Don't get me wrong, I don't pry into people's cabinets, but I have occasionally seen drug products in such vast quantity that I'm sure they aren't taking all of them and many have been there for a long time.

        In our case, we have had drugs that we just never finished for some reason or other.  For example, one of the prescriptions pictured above had given me an adverse reaction so the doctor prescribed an alternate drug, which left me with a sizeable supply of the old drug.  Others were drugs that had just run their course and we didn't finish them.  In all of these cases the leftover supply remained in the cupboard.

       Or take the case of the giant bottles of vitamins and calcium that my wife purchased at Costco.  Her intentions had been good in buying them, but she just never got in the habit of taking them and they sat on the shelf for several years.  When we decided that she should really start taking them we realized that they were expired by several years.

       The drug companies are required to put the expiration date on their products partly for safety, partly because there is a good reason, and partly because they want you to buy more.  In the case of the vitamins, there is a good chance they had lost their potency and were no longer useful.  Drugs like aspirin probably are good way past the expiration date and it is unlikely it would hurt you to take them.  Other drugs could potentially become affected to the extent of being dangerous to take.  Over all, if you aren't using the drugs and they are expired it is probably safest not to take a chance with them.  The best rule is if your life depends on the drug, get rid of it if it is expired and get a new prescription.  No point in taking any chances.

       As far as disposing of drugs, many prescription drugs are considered hazardous waste.  If you throw them in your trash they can go to the landfill and seep into the soil.  The old recommended method of flushing them into the toilet is now said to pose a potential contamination hazard to the water supply.  Here in Southern California and probably many other areas there are hazardous waste round-ups where household chemicals, electronic waste, and old pharmaceuticals can be taken for proper disposal.  I wonder what they do with it?

       Some pharmacies will also take back old medicines to be disposed of in an appropriate manner.   A Google search may also find charitable organizations that will take expired prescriptions to be tested for safety and shipped to poor countries where they could still be administered if usable. 

        I dumped the vitamin E and the calcium tablets in my garden.  I don't know that it did any good, but I don't think it would have hurt anything.  The other pills have been put together in one bottle and are sitting in my garage in a safe place with other hazardous items to be disposed of at the next hazardous waste round-up.  We are pretty good about not accumulating much in the way of drugs or other drug store items.  We try to use them and if we don't, we toss them out.

       Do you have any horror stories about "bad medicine"?    Do you have a lot of old medicine in your house now?   What do you do with the old medicine?   Do you take vitamins and supplements?  Do they help?


19 comments:

  1. It is important to check the Expiry Dates of the medicines at regular period of time.Always consult Doctor/Physician before taking medication.

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  2. I found this difficult to read with the Bon Jovi song looping through my head.

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  3. Now I will joke a bit with you and say - I guess a person has to be of certain, lets say "golden", age to have expired medicine in the cabinets :)))))
    I have just aspirin and green tea pills in my house :)

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  4. Thanks for the reminder to check my shelves. We finish the vitamins...but there may be some other things that need to go away.

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  5. Hi Arlee,
    I go through our cabinet about twice a year. It does amaze me at what can build up in there.
    I once had a bad reaction from an anti-biotic. I broke out from head to toe in hives. I had to take Benydril for days. I slept for days from the benydril. It was horrible.
    So now I don't take sulfa based anti-biotics! Love Di ♥

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  6. I always worry about how to dispose of expired meds. My kids were both presribed Tylenol 3s for various things. They only ever used 1 or 2 of the pills (we're a little paranoid about overdoing meds here :)). I didn't know what to do with them, so I finally took them back to the pharmacy and asked them to dispose of them.

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  7. Thanks, Lee. I didn't know it wasn't okay to simply throw old meds in the trash.
    Karen

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  8. This reminded me of cleaning out my grandmothers medicine cabinet. I found a cardboard vial of "Carter's Little Liver Pills." Now exactly when those stopped being made I'm not sure. :D

    Thanks for the info. I never thought about disposing of old meds. Also, if you take aspirin for your heart, do check the expiration date. It does lose it's strength and may not do you much good.

    Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  9. I take a multi-vitamin almost every day. Helps me.

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  10. We go through vitamins rather fast, so they never go bad. Once in a while a bottle of Cipro will expire. Fortunately, we take very few pills in this house!

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  11. As I am on medication for life I get mine monthly so they don't hoard in the cupboard, but it is dangerous to hoard unused medications as they can cause damage.

    Yvonne.

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  12. I take vitamins and supplements suggested by my doctor, but I don’t know that they help. If I skip them for a few days, I don’t notice any difference in how I feel. We’re fortunate not to have to take too many prescriptions, so they don’t accumulate too quickly. I’m going to try some of your suggestions for disposal as I never know what to do with unused pills.

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  13. abps -- What you say is especially true if taking someone elses medication to treat your own problem. What they have may not be the correct dose or suitable for your affliction. Thank you for visiting my site.

    Will-- I thought about adding the Bon Jovi song because it was in my head as well.

    Dezmond -- Very funny! Ha ha! But you are correct. I rarely had prescription drugs around when I was younger. Now we have more around the house with more opportunities to accumulate them. But not as bad as some folks I've seen.

    Liza -- It doesn't hurt to purge the drug collection now and then, especially if you have children or grandchildren who might get curious.

    Diana -- Thank you for sharing your story. It's a risk that is better not to take.

    Jemi -- I still wonder how they dispose of them.

    Karen --- I know I've always just thrown them away, but it does make sense that it could be hazardous.

    Jules -- Old medicines like the Carter's are collectors items I'd say. They'd be worth saving, but not taking.

    Carol-- I used to take multi-vitamins. Don't know if they helped or not. Recently my doctor told me to start taking B12, but I don't really notice any difference from taking those either.

    Alex -- I've always tried to avoid taking any kind of drugs, but in the last decade certain conditions have arisen that seem to warrant doing so.

    Yvonne-- I almost always finish my prescriptions, unless there is a problem I have about them.

    Jane -- I guess we should all be kind of careful about the disposal issue.

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  14. I would caution everyone not to throw away too quickly (or mail them to me).

    Many items, especially those in a pill form, really do maintain their potency long after the expiration date on the bottle.

    Aspirin, vitamins, supplements-I take them until the bottle is empty.

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  15. Larry -- What you say is true. Especially for things like aspirin, vitamins, and supplements-- they are probably not going to harm you if they are past the expiration date, but they also may be useless. A lot depends on the way they have been stored. If kept in a "medicine cabinet" in a bathroom that gets hot and steamy and is often humid, potency and safety of medications may be lost. Likewise for items stored in direct sunlight. I've seen people keep meds and such on a window ledge where they are exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. For prescriptions meds the expiry date should probably be heeded, if for no other reason than "just in case".

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  16. We've avoided most drugs so far. My husband won't even take Ibuprofen unless it's forced upon him.

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  17. I rarely see many expired vits/meds around my house. Recently though, my husband changed commands(he's in the Navy). I found a ton of stuff, tylenol, vitamins, etc...expired. He had them on the ship and was deployed and brought them back to me.

    I admire your creativity, tossing vit E and calcium in your garden. I wonder what will happen to birds, if they decided to try this new dietary aid? Keep me posted if you have some abundant, bumper crop! I take Omega 3 and chromium w/cinnamon, which helps my Type 1 diabetes, at least I think so. I stop for a while take a break then start up again. I truly believe it helps me! Great post~

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  18. I once read that we should smush up expired meds and vitamins and such with water and kitty litter or sand (to make it unpalatable), then seal the yucky mess in a plastic bag. After that, it can be thrown in the regular trash. I haven't had the occasion to use the idea, so haven't investigated whether that's really recommended.

    Patricia

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  19. L. Diane -- I try to avoid OTC drugs unless I get a really bad headache (rarely) or a really bad cold (about once a year). I always question my physician about the prescribed stuff and I guess it seems like I need to take it.

    Ellie -- so far I haven't seen anything different in by "garden".

    Patricia -- I have read that solution as well although it was pointed out that there was still the risk of contamination in the soil.

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