Is it time for a medication review? Are you greeted by a dizzying array of prescription pill bottles, blister packs, and various lotions and potions when you open your medicine cabinet or peek in that box tucked under the bathroom sink? It happens to many of us.

There are some leftover painkillers from your spouse’s knee surgery last year, along with a few from your son’s wisdom tooth extraction eight years ago. That crumpled tube is the acne cream your teenager needed in Grade 10 – and she just graduated law school. There are the last three pills from the antibiotics you were prescribed for strep throat in 2015.

One study showed that after being prescribed opioids following dermatological surgery, 86% of the patients did not take all of the prescribed medication and more than 50% of them planned on keeping their remaining tablets.

Many of us have unused and expired medication in our homes, either because we’ve forgotten about them or we think we may need them another time. It’s time to clean them out and ensure safe storage of all prescriptions, for your own safety and those around you.

Risks of keeping old or expired prescription medication

Proper medical oversight of your medications is essential. Self-medicating by using old prescriptions or someone else’s prescription may result in taking risks – sometimes without any benefit.

  • Antibiotics are effective for a bacterial infection. If you take those old antibiotics because you have a viral infection like a sore throat, the antibiotics will not help
  • You may risk an adverse reaction with other medications you’re taking
  • By taking medications not prescribed for you and for a specific condition, you may end up masking some of your symptoms, delaying a proper diagnosis when needed

How to properly dispose of expired or unused prescriptions

  • Do not flush prescriptions down the toilet or put them down the sink drain
  • Avoid throwing medication in the garbage
  • Traces of pharmaceuticals have been found in our soil and water. While the concentration levels are low, they may still have an adverse effect on the environment
  • For safe and easy disposal, take your old or unused medications to your local pharmacy
  • If you decide to throw your medications in the garbage;
  • Hide the medication in something unappealing, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter. This may help deter anyone going through the trash looking for drugs
  • Place the mixture in a sealed bag or container to prevent the drug from leaking
  • For more tips, visit Health Canada

How to dispose of empty prescription containers

In Calgary, you can recycle empty prescription bottles, blood glucose test strip bottles, pill vials, cough syrup bottles and medicine bottles with symbols 1–7. Simply place them in your blue box or take them to a recycling depot. Other areas may have different recycling standards, so be sure to check the guidelines in your location.

Before disposing of empty prescription containers:

  • To protect your privacy, scratch out or remove any labels containing your name, personal information, etc.
  • Remove caps and place them in the garbage
  • Remove cotton balls and gel packs and put them in the garbage

Why a review of your medications is important

“Managing multiple conditions or different medications can get confusing. And sometimes the pharmacy may substitute a generic drug for a brand name, and you can inadvertently double up on your dosage, not realizing it’s the same drug. Some patients may be taking nutritional supplements, too, and in some cases, supplements can interfere with the efficacy of a prescription. A review of all your medications helps to ensure they are all working together for your benefit,” says Dr. Wendy Smeltzer, former INLIV Medical Director.

Tips for a medication review

  • Gather together all of the medications in your household, wherever they may be. Check the medicine cabinet, bathroom counter, under the sink, toiletry bag, gym bag, refrigerator, purse, and even the glove compartment of your car. Separate all those that are ‘leftovers’ or expired, and make a plan to properly dispose of them
  • Always store prescriptions and over-the-counter medications in a safe location, out of the reach of children
  • Some medications should not be stored in the bathroom, as humidity can alter their composition. Check the label for details
  • When you’re meeting with your family physician or healthcare provider, be honest about any and all medications you’re taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and alternative products like supplements
  • Take all of your medications, etc, with you to your appointment. This allows your healthcare provider to confirm the dosages and other details
  • Many physicians, healthcare providers and pharmacists will provide a medication review

As part of INLIV’s Total Health Management and Proactive Health Assessment programs, our physicians and medical team can access your health records to ensure we are current on the medications that have been prescribed for you. Additionally, you have full access to your prescription records through our online health portal. And you can request a prescription refill online through the health portal, too.

To learn more about how INLIV can help you and your family, reserve a free tour of our facility and a consultation with one of our advisers.