Medicine cabinet cleanout urged

Do you have old bottles of pills and capsules that you never used up just sitting on a shelf in your house?
Well, now is the time to toss them out!
The local seniors’ coalition, sponsored by the New Horizons for Seniors Programing, is holding its third-annual “Medicine Cabinet Cleanout Contest” throughout March—and district residents are being urged to participate for a chance to win.
Becky Holden, a public health educator with the Northwestern Health Unit, said the purpose of the contest is to encourage people to safely dispose of their medicine so that it’s not used after its best before date, used by someone who’s not supposed to take it, or improperly goes into the environment.
Here’s how the contest works. During the month of March, just take all the medications you have cleaned out of your medicine cabinet back to your local pharmacy for safe and free disposal.
Participating pharmacies include the Fort Frances Clinic Dispensary, Pharmasave Downtown, the Canada Safeway pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart, the Wal-Mart pharmacy, and Emo Drugs.
When you drop off your drugs at one of these locations, you’ll be entered in a draw to win a prize. Prizes also will be awarded to the person who brings in the largest quantity of medication and the one who drops off the oldest medication overall.
To qualify for the contest, the medications can be prescriptions that have expired or you no longer need to take, as well as old or expired non-prescription medications, including cough/cold medicine, pain relief drugs, first-aid substances, vitamins, and herbal products.
Canada Safeway pharmacist David Schwartz said the annual contest is “very important” because it helps raise awareness of medication safety.
“There’s a lot of programs out there dealing with medication safety and I think this is an excellent one because it’s something people can take a personal interest in,” he noted.
“Everyone has a place where they keep over-the-counter medications or prescription medications, and it’s always good to go through it once a year at least and check the dates on some of the stuff,” Schwartz added.
Eyedrops, for example, have an expiry date on them when you buy them, but once the bottle is opened, they’re only good for about 30 days afterwards because the preservatives are quite weak.
As such, if you keep them around too long, they can exhibit fungal or bacterial growth.
“It’s also good to review where [people are] keeping their medications. They should be in a cool, dark place, ideally out of the reach of children,” stressed Schwartz.
“We want to stay away from the bathroom because the high humidity can really break them down quickly,” he noted. “And you want to keep them out of the sunlight—don’t put them on the shelf behind the sink where sun beats down every morning.”
Schwartz also said that if you ever find medication in your home and you’re not sure whether it’s OK to take, contact your pharmacist for their advice.
While the contest itself may only run for next month, Schwartz said all area pharmacies will accept old medications people bring in year-round.
The medication is put into a special container, which is picked up and disposed of by an environmental company.
This disposal prevents medication from getting into the ground, and ultimately, municipal drinking water supplies—an increasing concern in this day and age.
Proper disposal also helps prevent theft of prescription drugs, which then may be abused by those for whom it is not meant.
For more information about the “Medicine Cabinet Cleanout Contest,” call Holden at 274-9827.