Health Team

Pharmacists offer tips on safe storage, disposal of medicine

Posted June 5, 2014

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medications from the pharmacy don't last forever, and it’s easy to forget how long is too long to use them.

Pharmacist Mike James says it's a good idea to go through your medicine cabinet every six months and pull out medicines that are past their expiration date.

He says many people think they're still good, “but you don't know whether or not you're going to get a 100 percent effect of your medication.”

Many doctors' offices and pharmacies donate expired medications overseas to developing nations that would not otherwise have them.

“So, they go to use that medication with the understanding that it may not be 100 percent potent,” James said.

Pharmacists say consumers need to look at the labels of medications while in the pharmacy – much like looking at food labels while grocery shopping – to determine the ingredients, warnings and expiration date.

WRAL health expert Dr. Allen Mask says the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency recommend that medications not be flushed or simply tossed in the trash because of concerns about the collective impact on water quality. Old medicines can be mixed with coffee grounds or cat litter or put in a sealed container before disposal.

Local sanitation departments also offer "Take Back" programs, allowing the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for disposal.

Mask says proper storage of medicines is also important because environmental conditions can cause the medication to degrade and be less effective. Most medications should not be refrigerated. But some, such as insulin, can be.

Don't leave medications in a car. Most require normal room temperature.

Light can also degrade a medication, so keep it in a dark place and away from heat.

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  • Edward Levy Jun 6, 2014
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    Do these medicate turn BAD at some point or just loss of potentcy?