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What Are We To Do With Expired Medications?

While organizing our medicine cabinets, I accumulated a bag of old prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The question of what to do with them is not so easily answered.

"I think it’s time we put our bread in the bread box," I announced this weekend.

We had three half-loaves of bread surrounding the toaster. Not only did it look messy, but we’ve had our share of bread wrappers melted to the side of the toaster.

There can’t be anything good about that.

As I rolled back the top of the wooden bread box sitting on the kitchen counter, my husband said, “I thought that was our medicine cabinet.”

I can understand why he would think that. Medicine cups, miscellaneous bottles of pills, antihistamines, plantar wart pads (Huh, in my kitchen?) were all jammed in the box. Many of the medications had expired.

This led me to my next dilemma: What to do with the expired medication? Years ago, I flushed them down the toilet because I worried that kids or pets might get to them if I put them in the garbage. But then I read that flushing medications is dangerous for our water supply.

Time to do a little research ...

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the main way drug residue enters our water systems is by people taking the medications and then naturally passing them through their bodies.

Yup, most of the medication in our water is via our regular bathroom use.  

The FDA maintains a list of medications they deem safe to dispose of by flushing in the toilet or down the sink. We are also advised to read the label or patient information sheet that came with the medicine for proper disposal instructions.

Rite Aid in Limerick will take expired medications. Bring them in during regular pharmacy hours, and the store will properly dispose of them. Walgreens has a nationwide Safe Medication Disposal program. You go into the store, buy a prepaid envelope for $2.99, and place medications, in their original containers, into the envelope. Drop it in the mail, where the medications will be sent to an approved medication incinerator.

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is holding its second National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The closest sites for our area are the Lower Frederick Police Department, at the , and the Upper Providence Police Department on Black Rock Road in Oaks. This program allows anyone to take unused or unwanted drugs into the one of more than 3,000 collection sites nationwide where the drugs will be disposed of properly.

None of my old medicines are on the flushable list, so they're now all together in a bag marked "expired," awaiting my delivery to their final stop—a medicine incinerator.

And my bread looks great in its new home. 

Joanne LaSpina May 26, 2011 at 12:31 PM
I went to Rite Aid last week with my expired medications. They will no longer take them and offered to sell me an envelope so I could send them to a safe disposal site. The envelope contained a long list of medications that were ineligible for the program. For now I'm hanging on to my bag of expired and recalled medications. The DEA has run two national events (most recently on April 30) allowing drop-offs of unwanted medications. A future date has not yet been announced, but I expect there will be one this fall and I will post the date when it is available.

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