A free service to dispose of unused or out of date medicines will be available to the general public in Cork and Kerry from the 10th October – 20th November 2016.
The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign has been organised by the HSE with community pharmacists in Cork and Kerry and is also supported by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Kerry County Council and the Southern Regional Waste Management Office.
More than 250 pharmacies in Cork & Kerry are participating in the campaign this year and the HSE and participating pharmacists are actively encouraging people to return unwanted or out of date medicines to them so that it can disposed of safely and properly.
Medicines can accumulate in the home for a variety of reasons e.g. unfinished courses of antibiotics or a condition/illness that is no longer a problem and subsequently the remainder of the medication is not used. Also, older people or someone with an ongoing illness can often have large amounts of medicine at home. Whatever the reason, the HSE and pharmacists would urge householders to take this opportunity to dispose of these unwanted medicines (prescription or over the counter) safely.
Ms. Louise Creed, HSE Pharmacist explains why people should take this opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted, medicines and said: “We would strongly urge people to take this opportunity to get rid of out of date or unused medicines.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 Check all the dates and remove anything that is out of date or no longer required. As well as the hazards posed by overdose, accidental poisoning and damage to the environment, medicines can change when out of date and may end up being harmful.”
Storing large quantities of medication at home can pose a hazard and put people at risk of:
- Accidental poisoning (particularly in children)
- 4,000 children in Ireland are accidently poisoned each year, according to figures from the Poisons Information Centre in Beaumont Hospital.
- 93% of cases of poisoning occurred in the home or a domestic setting. Brightly coloured medications or liquids can easily be mistaken for sweets or drinks by children or other vulnerable people.
Inappropriate sharing of medications
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.
Overdose suicide attempts
The National Suicide Research Foundation reports that approximately 50 cases of suicide each year involve drug overdose and that about 8,000 people present to Emergency Departments each year due to deliberate drug overdose. In most cases, prescription or over-the-counter medication is involved.
Damage to the environment
Unwanted medicines are often 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.
Mr. David Lane, Drug & 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 emphasis strongly enough how important it is to ensure 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.”
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.
Cork County Council’s guide on Managing Your Household Waste and Water Usage gives advice and tips on disposing of household chemicals. See http://www.corkcoco.ie for free download
The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) has been operating successfully in the HSE South (Cork & Kerry) since 2007. In 2015, more than 280 bins, containing 3.9 tonnes of medicines, were safely disposed of as part of the campaign.
Ms. Creed added: “The results for the last DUMP campaign were very encouraging. The campaign gave the HSE and the people of Cork & Kerry the opportunity to work together and dispose of out of date or unused medicines and raised the public’s awareness of how excess medicines in the home can pose a hazard particularly for children or other vulnerable people. I would encourage people to get involved in this year’s campaign to ensure it is another success.”