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Safe disposal of unwanted medicines

3 July 2019

Storage of expired and unwanted medicines in the home can be dangerous, and unsafe disposal of unwanted medicines can lead to environmental harm.

Your local community pharmacy provides a free and convenient way to dispose of your unwanted medicines responsibly. Prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbal or complementary supplements, gels, liquids, creams and pet medicines can all be returned to your community pharmacy for free, safe disposal.

Most medicines can be placed directly in the disposal bin provided by the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project, but certain medicines (such as strong pain relievers) may need to be separately stored or processed by the pharmacist. So please ensure you let the pharmacist know what type of medicines you are returning.

Children under five years old have the highest risk of accidental poisoning, so make sure potentially dangerous substances, including medicines, are locked away out of the sight and reach of your children.

Why is returning unused pain relievers particularly important?

One family of pain relievers, legal or pharmaceutical opioids, is responsible for far more deaths and poisoning hospitalisations than illegal opioids (such as heroin), as shown by this Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report and many others. Every day in Australia, nearly 150 hospitalisations and 14 emergency department admissions involve opioid harm, and three people die from drug-induced deaths involving opioid use.


  • Don't keep unused strong pain relievers 'just in case' as this can lead to inappropriate use.
  • Strong pain relievers left easily accessible around the home are dangerous for children and pets. They can also be stolen and diverted for misuse.
  • Improper disposal of strong pain relievers such as binning or flushing is dangerous to others and harmful to the environment.

Further information