The Importance of Safe Disposal of Supplements That Have Expired

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toilet and trashcanWhile the science suggests that setting a multitude of New Year’s resolutions isn’t honestly a great idea and that we do much better if we focus on one goal at a time, many of us continue to view New Year’s as an overall fresh start.

After making a clean sweep through the kitchen, it only makes sense to continue to the bathroom cabinets, another key area in our home with lots of items with “best used by” dates.

Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications, including vitamins and other dietary supplements, all have expiration/best used by dates. Prescription medications typically have a one-year shelf life, while vitamins and supplements have a two-year shelf life.

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To dispose of supplements and medications that have expired or are no longer needed, many cities have hazardous waste collection sites that will take these items. The U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regularly schedules National Prescription Drug Take Back Days. During these events, unwanted medications can be dropped off at collection sites for free.

If waiting for a specified day is just too long, pharmacy chain CVS has partnered with Sharps Compliance Corporation, a company that handles medical waste, and all of their pharmacies have medication disposal envelopes which can be used to send unwanted medications directly to Sharps for disposal. (At the time of this writing, the postage paid envelope is less than $5.)

If you elect to dispose of unused medications in your trash, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers these guidelines for handling:

• Take the pills out of their original containers.

• Mix the pills with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or cat litter to make the pills less attractive to children or pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through your trash.

• Put the mixture in a sealed container or bag to prevent the pills from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.

• These products should not be burned, so those in rural areas with burn barrels should not put these items in the burn barrel.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy recommends that before disposing of prescription medication bottles, the label either be removed, or covered with a permanent marker or duct tape to prevent re-ordering by someone else.

Recommended storage instructions are noted on vitamin and supplement bottles, and on the insert that accompanies prescription medications. As a general rule, products should be stored at room temperature, away from both excessive light and humidity.

Article by Jill Turner, President of Cooper Concepts

Reference
National Take Back Initiative
http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/

Sharps Compliance Corp’s TakeAway Environmental Return System ™ Envelope Solution Now Available at CVS/pharmacy
http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20110816-905933.html

FDA How to Dispose of Unused Medicines
http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-CounterMedicines/ucm107163.pdf

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