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National campaign highlights health hazard of storing old medicines

A new awareness campaign has been launched to explain the dangers of keeping expired and unwanted medicine in the home and the steps older people can take to dispose of medicines safely.

Keeping out-of-date medicines poses a risk of accidental poisoning and medication mismanagement. For example, chemical changes to some medicines after their use-by date can result in toxic products.

As older people often take multiple medications, they are at greater risk of harm from medication confusion or mismanagement.

The Return Unwanted Medicines or RUM project is an initiative funded by the federal government to encourage free and safe disposal of expired and unwanted household medicines.

Project manager Toni Riley said last year the RUM project safely disposed of over 700 tonnes of medicines.

“By following three simple steps of ‘read, remove and return’, Australians can minimise the risk of unintended poisonings and medication mix-ups, and do their bit to protect the environment,” said Ms Riley.

The campaign is encouraging older people to:

  1. Check the expiry dates of the medicines in their home and consider if the stored medication is still needed
  2. Remove all expired and unwanted medicines and collect them in a bag or container
  3. Return all expired and unwanted medicines to their local pharmacy for safe disposal in a RUM bin.

As part of the initiative, prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbal or complementary supplements, gels, liquids, creams can be returned to a community pharmacy for disposal.

Ms Riley said this helps prevent medicines being disposed of inappropriately, such as flushed down the toilet or sink, or thrown out with the household garbage.

For more information visit the Return Unwanted Medicines website

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