Medication Disposal - What to Do with Old or Unusable Medication

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FAAEm, FACEP
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

There are many axioms that remind us about how unfair life can be. It always rains after you wash the car. The car noise disappears the moment you drive into the mechanic's bay. Your doctor always changes your prescription the day after you had it refilled.

When you look into your medicine cabinet, you see your medical history. The leftover pain medication from knee surgery, the few antibiotic pills you forgot to finish once you felt better, the cholesterol lowering medication that caused liver inflammation. Small bottles half-filled with potent medicine and elixirs no good to anybody - but what to do with them? Like nuclear waste, nobody wants the leftovers back. Have you ever tried returning pills to a pharmacy after you developed a side effect or an allergic reaction to the medication? What are you supposed to do with the 53 pills left in the bottle?

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