The free ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign is running from Monday, February 24th until Saturday, April 4th and will allow everyone to bring unused or out of date medicines to participating pharmacies to make sure they are disposed of properly. These medicines shouldn’t be put in the bin or flushed away as this poses a danger to children, pets, the environment and our water systems.
Cork Kerry Community Healthcare has organised the ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign with pharmacists in Cork and Kerry. The campaign is supported by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, and Kerry County Council.
Almost all pharmacies in Cork and Kerry are taking part in the campaign and are encouraging people to return unwanted or out of date medicines to them so that they can be disposed of safely and properly.
Louise Creed, HSE Pharmacist explains why people should take this opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted medicines:
“We would strongly urge people to take this opportunity to get rid of out of date or unused medicines. Medication can pose a real hazard in the home, particularly to children or other vulnerable people. Clearing out your medicine cabinet is something that should be done on a regular basis. Check all the dates and remove anything that is out of date or no longer required. Medicines have an expiry date for the same reason food does and out of date medicines could do more harm than good.”
She added that it’s important that medicines are disposed of correctly, “disposing of medicines in the rubbish bin means that they could be accessed by children or pets. Flushing medicine down the sink or toilet means that medicine residues can enter the environment and even small amounts of medicines can affect freshwater ecosystems.
Medicines can build up in the home for a variety of reasons e.g. you might have an unfinished course of antibiotics or have medication for a condition/illness that is no longer a problem. Also, older people or someone with an ongoing illness can often have large amounts of medicine at home. Whatever the reason, the HSE, Cork Kerry Community Healthcare and pharmacists urge householders to take this opportunity to dispose of these unwanted medicines (prescription or over the counter) safely.”
David Lane, Drug and Alcohol Services Co-ordinator said:
“The pharmacies involved have all embraced the campaign and are actively encouraging people to return unwanted or out of date medicines to them. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is to ensure these medicines are disposed of properly and safely. Please take some time to check out what’s in your cabinets and avail of this free service over the coming weeks.”
The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign has run successfully in the Cork and Kerry since 2007. In 2018, more than 280 bins, containing more than four tonnes of medicines, were safely disposed of as part of the campaign.
Storing large quantities of medication at home can pose a hazard and put people at risk of:
Accidental poisonings (particularly in children)
The National Poisons Information Centre in Beaumont Hospital received 10,461 enquiries in 2018 involving poisoning in humans. Almost 60% of these related to children under 10 years old. Most poisonings involving children took place in the child’s home or that of a grandparent or child-minder. More than half of poisonings involved medicines, with Paracetamol being the most common medicine involved. Brightly coloured medications or liquids can easily be mistaken for sweets or drinks by children or other vulnerable people.
Inappropriate sharing of medicines
It is important that medicines are taken as directed by the person for whom they were prescribed and only that person. Medication is prescribed to cure illness/infection, however, sharing or not completing courses of medication may cause illness, injury, or even death. Also, when antibiotics are used inappropriately (i.e. not completing the course or sharing with someone), not all bacteria are destroyed and more resistant bacteria survive and multiply. These drug-resistant bacteria then make it harder to prevent and treat infections because fewer antibiotics are effective against them. Increased antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to global public health.
Overdose suicide attempts
The National Suicide Research Foundation reports that in 2018, there were 12,588 presentations to a hospital due to self-harm with intentional drug overdose using prescription or over the counter medicines being the means of self-harm in 62% of cases. In 2017 there were 251 deaths due to overdose using prescription or over the counter medicines.
Damage to the environment
Unwanted medicines are often inappropriately disposed of by being dumped with other household waste, flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. These methods of disposal can seriously harm the environment with products ending up in landfill, permeating the soil and entering our food chain and water supply. Most households will always have a quantity of medicine in their home and it is important that it is stored correctly and out of reach of children or other vulnerable people.
There are a number of steps you can take including:
- Ask your pharmacist to put your medicines into a child-resistant container.
- Remember these caps are child-resistant not childproof.
- Keep all medicines, even seemingly harmless medicines, well out of reach and sight of children on a high shelf or in a locked press. Don’t forget that children can climb higher than you think.
- Ensure that your child-minder keeps medicines out of your children’s reach.
- Remember that grandparents and older people are more likely to have medication in their homes, so when visiting their house make sure all medicines are out of children’s reach.
- Always keep medicines in their original pack or bottle and do not remove the label.
- Keep your medicines in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight and away from direct heat (e.g. a radiator or fire)
- Medicines should not be stored in the kitchen or in the bathroom. The heat and steam in these rooms could damage the medicine.
- Some medicines must be kept in the fridge. Check the label or leaflet – you will see a statement like “Store in a refrigerator” or “Store at 2°C – 8°C”. Medicines should never be in direct contact with food in the fridge. If you have a freezer compartment in your fridge, don’t put medicines in the shelf below it in case they freeze. If your medicine freezes, check with your pharmacist if it is still safe to use
- Ask your pharmacist for advice if you are unsure about where to store your medicines.
- Don’t hoard medicines, unless they are part of your family First Aid kit.
- All the same, precautions should be taken for household chemical products such as bleach, disinfectants, white spirit and weedkillers, which should be locked away and out of reach.