Health Tips brought to you by U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group. Our experienced medical experts provide information here that we hope will broaden your health care knowledge.
Today we talk to Dr. A.K. Misra, medical director for U.S. HealthWorks in South San Francisco, about expiration and proper disposal of medications. Dr. Misra is double board certified in Sports Medicine and Internal Medicine.
Q: There are times I end up with extra medications ranging from antibiotics to pain medications left over after I have seen the doctor for whatever reason. What should I do with them?
A: This is an extremely important matter both from the standpoint of one’s health and safety as well as the environment and ecology of the communities where we live. In summary, one must not take medications outside of the directions provided by the prescribing physician. Further, it is highly irresponsible (and in certain cases a felony; i.e. narcotics) to give medications to someone other than for whom they were intended. Medications must be disposed of correctly.
For specific concerns as they relate to pain medications, please see our pain medication blog.
Q: Do medications expire? How would I know?
Yes, medications do expire. It can be difficult to find this information listed on your prescription bottle, so I recommend to specifically ask where this information is located when picking up the medication from the pharmacist. Be careful not to confuse it with any other information available on the bottle.
Q: What should I do with extra medications?
A: Medications have special requirements for disposal. As mentioned above, the environmental impact of proper disposal must be followed, and most waste management companies will provide information to their customers on their specific processes. In California, the state government has offered this as a resource for direction.
Many community health groups and local utilities will also provide information on proper disposal. Contacting your local pharmacy is also a good idea to learn of proper medication disposal procedures as they are often asked this question.
Again, medications are never to be given to anyone else for any reason, and most certainly should not be “saved for a later date” for any reason. Take your medications only as directed by a physician for a specific time period and condition, and if you have any leftover, be sure to dispose of it in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner.