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?