How Can I Dispose of Unwanted Medicines Safely?

Disposing of Medication in the UK

Have you ever looked into your medicine cabinet when you’re full of a cold, taken a look at some old, out of date cold and flu remedy and thought, “Maybe I should throw this out”? What did you do then? If you don’t dispose of that medicine safely then you could risk harming your loved ones or the environment. But don’t despair, if you’re not sure what to do with your unwanted medication then you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to share exactly how you can dispose of that medicine safely and responsibly.


Why would I need to dispose of medication?

Some people think that just because they store their medication safely away, it can stay there for a few decades without any problems, but that just isn’t the case! Sometimes, medicines can go out of date or might get damaged while they’re stored in your cupboard, and this is when they’d need to be disposed of safely. If the packaging of your medication is damaged (for example, the blister packaging on your tablets is torn or broken open before you can use your medicine) then the medication stored within could be unsafe to take and should be disposed of.


Why does medicine have an expiration date?

Medicine has an expiration date for the same reason that food does, out of date medicine could do more harm than good! If the expiry date on your medication has passed, then the drugs could be less effective and could even be dangerous to use. You wouldn’t drink milk that’s been out of date for a week, so think about that the next time you’re rifling through your medicine cabinet and consider taking that paracetamol that expired some time in 1986.


When should I check medication expiry dates?

It’s a good idea to check any medicine that you do have in your home to make sure that it’s still in date and hasn’t been damaged. Make a note in your calendar to check those long-term medications every 6 months or so and if any are out of date or have been damaged during storage, make sure to dispose of them safely. This will stop you from taking any out of date medication by mistake when you take your daily prescriptions, keeping you safe from accidentally taking something that could be dangerous.


Should I order more prescription medicines than I need?

You should never order more prescription medication than you need, in fact, even buying more over the counter pharmacy medications than you need is a bad idea. When you stockpile your medication rather than using it right away, you run the risk of it going out of date and becoming unusable, wasting the medication entirely. As soon as you leave the pharmacy, any medication you take with you cannot be recycled, as it would be unsafe to give medicine that has not been properly monitored to somebody else. This is why you should only order as much medication as you need and are going to use, rather than just ordering your repeat prescription and keeping hold of valuable medicine just in case.


What do unused medications cost the NHS?

Another reason why you shouldn’t keep hold of medication you won’t use is how much that unused medication costs the NHS. The NHS have estimated that unused prescription medicine costs them a whopping £300million every single year! That’s millions of pounds thrown away just by people who are ordering medication they don’t need. That money could fund 11,778 more community nurses every year, so the next time you’re ordering your repeat prescription take a moment to think whether you really need that medication right now. If you don’t order something you won’t need, you could save our NHS a little bit of cash, and every little helps when it comes to funding our health services!


How can a pharmacist help me to dispose of medication safely?

If you’ve got any unwanted medication then your local pharmacist is the person to go to! Any pharmacy can dispose of your unwanted medication safely and for absolutely free! So, don’t try to dispose of your medications by yourself, bag them up and pop down to your local pharmacy so they can do what they need to do to ensure that your medicines are disposed of safely and responsibly.


Can Chemist 4 U dispose of my unused prescription drugs?

Yes, Chemist 4 U is a registered pharmacy, so we can dispose of any unwanted prescription drugs. If you have any unwanted medications you’d like us to dispose of, get in touch with our customer services team over the phone, by email, or on social media. They’ll be able advise you when to package your unwanted medication and send it to us so we can dispose of it safely.


Can I dispose of my old medication at home?

You should never dispose of your old medication by yourself at home, as it could be dangerous. If you throw your unwanted medication into the bin, then it could be found by children or pets who could eat it and make themselves sick. If you try to flush your unwanted medicine down the toilet or empty it into a drain then it could be harmful to the environment, so it’s just a bad idea no matter what you try! Do the right thing, do the safe thing, and give your unwanted medication to a pharmacist so they can get rid of it properly.


Are there any things that my pharmacist can’t dispose of safely?

Although any pharmacy will be happy to dispose of your unwanted medication safely and securely, there are a couple of things that they won’t be able to accept due to health and safety reasons. Some of the items your pharmacist won’t be able to dispose of include:

  • Anything that isn’t a medicine
  • Batteries
  • Chemicals
  • Dialysis kits
  • Paints or oils
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents
  • Veterinary products
  • Sharps, e.g. needles

Chemist 4 U won’t be able to accept any waste from care homes or other healthcare providers unless they get consent from our registered pharmacist first. However, we’re happy to dispose of any unwanted medication from any of our patients or members of the public, so give us a call if you’d like to send your unwanted medication to us for disposal.


Now you know everything you need to know about getting rid of your unwanted medications safely! Remember, Chemist 4 U or your local pharmacist will be able to dispose of any unwanted medicines, so don’t take matters into your own hands. Stay safe, and let us get rid of that 30-year-old paracetamol that’s lurking in the back of your medicine cabinet!

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