Australians are being urged to clean out their medicine cabinets and rid their homes, cars and offices of unwanted, unnecessary and potentially harmful out-of-date medicines.
‘Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet Day’ (16 October) marks the halfway point in a national medicinewise challenge that has been set as part of Be Medicinewise Week 2013.
“It’s pretty clear that Australians need to become more medicinewise. Around 1.5 million people experience a medicines-related problem each year and hospitals see 190,000 admissions per year as a result,” says Dr D’Arcy.
“Medicines use in Australia is just about universal. Chances are we’ve all got a few medicines lying around the house, stuffed in a draw at work, hiding in the glove box or stashed in our bags. But when was the last time you checked whether those medicines were still safe to use?
“Medicines can change significantly over time – chemically or in their physical form. Beyond their expiry dates, they may become less effective, and in some cases might even become toxic. Holding onto your old pills and potions can be dangerous if you end up taking them.”
But it’s not just out-of-date medicines we need to worry about. Dr D’Arcy warns you should also dispose of medicines you no longer need.
“Medicines you no longer need may no longer be right for you, so saving some for next time or giving them to someone else is a big risk that’s not worth taking.”
According to Dr D’Arcy, the key to spring cleaning your medicines cabinet is knowing what to look for. Medicines come in many forms, including tablets, liquids, inhalers, drops, patches, creams, suppositories and injections.
“A lot of people don’t realise that complementary medicines such as herbal remedies, vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements are medicines too,” says Dr D’Arcy.
“It helps to remember that a medicine is what you take to change the way your body deals with illness or injury, or to maintain your health and wellbeing.”
Take the medicinewise challenge and use these C.L.E.A.N tips to help you keep your medicine cabinet safe and tidy.
- Collect all the medicines in your house. Check your handbag, car, bedside table and first aid and travel kits.
- Look at the expiry date on the label or packaging of all medicines to check if they’re still in date.
- Exclude medicines from your cabinet that are past their expiry date or are no longer needed. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist or doctor. If a medicine has an expiry month, this means the end of that month.
- Arrange to have unwanted or out-of-date medicines disposed of by a pharmacy. Return your medicines to any pharmacy for safe and easy disposal through the Return of Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project.
- Note all your medicines using an NPS Medicines List to help you keep track of them