It is important to store your medicines safely and securely and to dispose of any unused or expired portions properly. In doing so, you can help avoid potential abuse, prevent accidental poisonings of children and pets, and protect the environment.
Medicines should be kept in a cool, dry place away from light, such as a dresser drawer, closet shelf, or kitchen cabinet. Storing medicine in a bathroom cabinet can expose the medicine to humidity and moisture that can cause the medicine to be less effective.
If you choose to store medicine in a kitchen cabinet, make sure it is away from the sink and hot appliances, as the change in temperature and humidity may affect it. If young children live with you or visit frequently, be sure to store the medicines up and away and out of reach of children. Consider adding a lock to the cabinet.
Now is a great time to see if any of your medicines should be discarded because they are too old or no longer needed. On prescription bottles, the label will often tell you when the medicine should be discarded. On over-the-counter medicines and sample medicines, the expiration date (the date it should be discarded) is often printed somewhere on the label. Look for the letters "EXP" which may be stamped onto the outer carton, the bottom of the bottle, or the crimp (ruff edge) of a tube. There you should see the expiration date. For medicines without an expiration date or if you cannot find the expiration date, unless you know you purchased it within the past year, it is best to toss it.
By replacing expired medicines, you ensure that you are using the most up-to-date product and following the appropriate instructions. Many changes may have happened since you last purchased the product, such as new dosing instructions or warnings; the strength may have changed; a new dosing device may be available to help measure doses more accurately; the product may be packaged in a new container; and so on.
Medicines that are no longer used, needed, or expired should be disposed of in a manner that protects your family, pets, community, and environment. Discard medicines by taking them to a drug take back location. If there is not a location near you, mix the medicine with an undesirable substance such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter and place in a sealable plastic bag. Then place the sealed bag in your trash. There are some medicines that can be safely flushed down the toilet. For complete instructions on disposing unused medicine, go to The FDA Guide for Disposal of Unused Medicines.