You are here

The free, safe and confidential way to get rid of your unwanted medicines

23 July 2019

As all Marie Kondo fans know, tidying your home starts by discarding things you don't need anymore.

You may have already culled your closet, sacked your shelves and purged your pantry. But have you explored the contents of your medicine cabinet?

You could have an expired medicine, or just a medicine left over from the last time you were sick.

In particular, you might have unused prescription pain medicines such as opioids. These and similar medicines can be dangerous to children or pets. They can also harm the environment if they are binned or flushed.

So what should you do? Move them to a top shelf? Padlock the medicine cabinet?

The answer is simple: take unwanted medicines to your local pharmacist.

A RUM deal

Most pharmacies are part of the Return Unwanted Medicines or RUM project. This is a free and confidential service where pharmacies will take and safely dispose of your unwanted medicines.

The RUM project recommends you 'read, remove, and return'.

  • Read the expiry dates on your medicine labels, and think about whether you still need them
  • Remove your unwanted and expired medicines to a bag
  • Return this bag of medicines to your pharmacy.

The pharmacist will send the medicines off to be incinerated at high temperature, which destroys the ingredients. This keeps dangerous medicine ingredients out of our food and water.

Since the project started 20 years ago, more than 10 million kilos of medicine have been destroyed. That's as much as the weight of water in eight Olympic swimming pools, or more than 6000 cars.

The expiration date is displayed on the medicine in a month and then year format, so 02/27 is February 2027. This is the date after which a medicine should not be used.

Be cautious with strong prescription pain relievers

Be especially cautious with strong prescription pain relievers such as opioids. These include codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone. They are addictive, may be targets for theft or misuse, and can potentially have serious interactions with other medicines.

If you have strong prescription pain relievers that you don't need, don't keep them around 'just in case'. They're potentially dangerous, and may not be appropriate for other kinds of pain. Always return them to the pharmacy.

For more information, visit our page on safe disposal of unwanted medicines.

So set a reminder to do a stocktake of your medicine cabinet in the next fortnight.

Say goodbye to unwanted medicines, and you'll do Marie Kondo proud.