Learn About the Safe Disposal of Supplements - Cooper Complete
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The Importance of Safe Disposal of Supplements That Have Expired

Photo of gloved hands sweeping supplement packs into a dustpan.

Whether spring cleaning or making a New Year’s resolution to be better organized, remember that not only the kitchen has products with best-used-by dates. After cleaning 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. Many of us hold on to expired medication that needs to be disposed of properly.

Do Medications and Supplements Expire?

Prescription 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 dietary supplements typically have a two-year shelf life. So, what’s involved in safely disposing of dietary supplements and prescription medications?

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. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regularly schedules National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Typically, these days occur in October and April. During these events, unwanted medications can be dropped off at collection sites for free.

If waiting for a specified day is just too long, many pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens have medication disposal envelopes that can be used to send unwanted medications directly to be destroyed, and some store locations have drop boxes.

Safe Disposal of Dietary Supplements and Prescription Medications

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

• 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.

Remember These Tips When Throwing Away Expired Medication:

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 the insert accompanying prescription medications. Generally, products should be stored at room temperature, away from excessive light and humidity.

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Article by Jill Turner, President of Cooper Concepts.

National Take Back Initiative

FDA How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

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