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Getting Rid of Old or Unwanted Medicine

No matter what type of medicine you take, make sure to follow your doctor's advice about how to take it. And find out the safest way to throw away medicines that are expired or no longer used. Use these drug disposal tips to help prevent people and animals from taking medicines that aren't intended for them:

  1. Find out if your local trash and recycle center offers a medicine take-back program. Ask your pharmacist if he or she knows of one. This is the best way to safely throw away medicines.
  2. If there is not a take-back program near you, follow these steps to throw away medicine with the rest of your garbage:
    • Mix medicine with a substance that doesn't taste good, such as cat litter, sawdust, or coffee grounds. Do not crush tablets or capsules.
    • Place the mixture in a container, such as a sealed plastic bag.
    • Put the container in your household trash.

Only a few medicines should be flushed down the sink or toilet if you can't use a take-back program. To see a list from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, go to www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#MEDICINES.

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What Is a Drug Recall?

Medicine is rigorously tested for safety and effectiveness before becoming available to the consumer. In the U.S., the FDA makes sure this happens. Once on the market, the FDA, along with the makers of the drug, continue to monitor the medicine for any unforeseen problems. Should an issue develop, or the safety of a medication come into question, a recall may be initiated.

Read the What Is a Drug Recall? article > >

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 09, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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