* Purdue School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

May 8, 2008

Purdue expert offers tips on spring cleaning the medicine cabinet

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - When cleaning out the medicine cabinet, medication and drugs should not be thrown in the trash or flushed down the toilet, says a Purdue University expert.

Patricia Darbishire, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, recommends that before disposing of any medication people contact a local pharmacist, the Solid Waste Management District or a law enforcement agency to learn the proper disposal technique for your geographic area.

"There is concern about pollution of the water supply through sewers and landfill runoff," she says. "Most tablets can be crushed, capsules opened and liquids mixed with cat litter, sawdust or flour to prevent misuse, and then sealed in a plastic bag or milk carton and disposed of in the trash. This will reduce the amount of chemicals that can leach out from landfills during heavy rains."

Discard medications that are past the expiration date, Darbishire says.

"A general rule of thumb is that most prescription medication is good for a year after leaving the pharmacy, unless labeled otherwise," she says. "You can ask the pharmacist to check the expiration date on the pharmacy stock bottle to be certain. Be especially mindful of liquid medications, which may separate and result in an incorrect dosage in products with multiple ingredients."

Do not stockpile medications for future use.

"Discard drugs that you are currently not prescribed," she says. "Specific infections require specific antibiotics. It is not likely that the one you kept will work, especially if you only have a partial supply. By selecting the wrong antibiotic and using a sub-potent dose, you are contributing to the development of resistant strains of bacteria."

If a medication has an illegible label or the container is broken, discard the product to prevent the medication from being taken incorrectly or mistaken for another product.

"Products in broken containers may not be sealed properly and could become unstable," Darbishire says. "Also, a broken container or cap makes it easier for young children to become victim to poisoning."

Store medications in a cool, dry place away from extreme temperature changes and humidity.

"If you keep your medications in the bathroom, above a stove or near a dishwasher, you may expose them to high humidity and temperature changes," Darbishire says. "This could lead to product breakdown, which may cause medication to become less effective over time or to convert to a completely different chemical that may be dangerous for consumption. An appropriate location for your medications might be the bedroom, an upper kitchen cabinet or any other cool, dry place to ensure they are out of reach of small children and animals.

Writer: Elizabeth Gardner, (765) 494-2081,

Source: Patricia Darbishire, (765) 494-1380,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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