When should old medicines be thrown away?
About a year after they expire. In most cases, prescription-drug expiration dates are one year to five years from the date they were made. But some pills can actually keep for a decade or even longer, research suggests. “Except for tetracycline, which can become toxic and cause kidney problems, expired drugs generally don’t appear to cause harm,” says Consumer Reports’ chief medical advisor, Marvin M. Lipman, M.D. “But they do become less potent over time.”
Once a drug is a year or so past the expiration date, however, it needs to go. Many pharmacies will take back and properly dispose of OTC and most prescription medications year around. If you dispose of old drugs yourself, don’t flush them down the drain (unless otherwise instructed) as the chemicals may find their way into waterways and the environment. Instead, mix them with cat litter, coffee grounds, or sawdust, put the mixture in a sealed plastic bag, and then toss it in the trash.
Here’s another great option: This year’s National Drug Take Back Day is this Saturday, April 27, 2013. Participating law enforcement agencies and community organizations will collect and properly dispose of unwanted medications. The service is free and anonymous. To find a drop-off location in your area, go to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency website http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback.