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While human necessities like oxygen, water, and light aren’t harmful to us, they can severely affect the shelf-life of medications. All medicine has an expiry date printed somewhere on the bottle, but if it was exposed to environmental factors, there’s a possibility they no longer work.
Whether you’re a doctor, pharmacist, lab tech, or citizen, proper medication storage is necessary if you want to keep you and your patients safe from expired or dangerous products.
How Do I Know if My Medication is Old, Damaged, or Expired?
Before storing new medication, it’s good practice to look through medicines in your cabinets, drawers, and shelves that have already expired. If you clean up first, you’ll reduce the likelihood you’ll take or use medicines that could harm your health. Never take medicine that:
- Looks, smells, or feels different than it did when you first got it.
- Sticks together, peels, is too hard, too soft, cracked, or chipped.
- Is it past its expiry date or is open when you bought it.
- Doesn’t have an expiry date, and you’re not sure when you bought it.
Never take medication that doesn’t have a label or isn’t in a bottle; it’s better to throw the medicine away.
How to Travel With Medicines Safely
Hospitals, pharmacies, and labs can use a medical courier service, like Dropoff.com, if they need to deliver medication in bulk. Medical couriers only hire experienced drivers who are knowledgeable in how to prepare, store, and ship medicine safely and securely.
If you’re driving with medications, don’t store them in the glove compartment. They can easily be damaged by the heat, cold, rain, or the car’s heater or air conditioner. If you’re flying, keep your medication in your carry-on. The cargo compartment may be too hot or cold.
Since you’re taking medication on an airplane, you’ll need to bring a letter that describes your medication regimen. If you have a condition where you need to carry needles, keep them in a plastic bag that’s visible to airport security. Always store your medication in its original container.
How to Store Medicines Safely Indoors
Storing your medicine indoors is much easier and safer, but you’re likely keeping your medicines in places where you shouldn’t be. Take care of your medicine by:
- Knowing what elements affect its strength or safety (air, light, heat)
- Storing it in a cool, dry place, like in your office or dresser drawer.
- Not storing it in the bathroom cabinet. Moisture and heat are always present.
- Keeping all medicine in its original container at all times.
- Speaking to your pharmacist about proper storage instructions.
- Throwing it out immediately if it wasn’t stored properly.
If you have children and you’re afraid they may interact with your medication, store it on a high shelf or somewhere out of their reach. Keep all medicine locked in a cabinet.
How to Get Rid of Old Medication
It’s unwise and irresponsible to throw medication away in the garbage if it’s damaged, expired, or you no longer need it. At the same time, you can’t flush your medicines down the toilet. Most medications are water-soluble, and dissolved drugs can affect the water supply.
If you want to throw your medicine in the trash, mix it with something that makes it unusable. For example, you can throw medication in kitty litter or coffee grounds. To be safe, give all expired medication to a pharmacist, so they can dispose of it in a biohazard container.
You can also use “Drug Take Back” programs. Some hospitals will offer drop-off boxes, mail-back programs, or other ways to dispose of aerosols, patches, creams, topicals, and other medicines.