How to dispose of expired medications

Updated July 20, 2017

Following reports of an Associated Press probe that trace levels of prescription and OTC drugs (especially hormones, antibiotics, anxiolytics, anticonvulsants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and others) were detectable in the drinking water supply of several major metropolitan areas nationwide, the FDA issued instructions on proper disposal of expired and unused medications. The wastewater contains both drugs that were consumed and hence excreted as well as the unused drugs that were flushed down the toilet. Despite treatment, some wastewater does enters the drinking water supply. Follow the steps below to learn how to properly dispose of expired and unused medications:

Disposal of unused medications

Remove drugs from their original container.

Mix or crush with an unappetizing substance such as coffee grounds, pet litter, dust and place into an impermeable container, such as a jar with a lid or a sealed plastic bag.

Dispose into the household trash.

Flush down the toilet only those medications whose label or accompanying patient information explicitly specifies flushing. The FDA advises that the following drugs should be flushed into the toilet rather than thrown into the trash:

Actiq (fentanyl citrate) Daytrana Transdermal Patch (methylphenidate) Duragesic Transdermal System (fentanyl) OxyContin Tablets (oxycodone) Avinza Capsules (morphine sulphate) Baraclude Tablets (entecavir) Reyataz Capsules (atazanavir sulphate) Tequin Tablets (gatifloxacin) Zerit for Oral Solution (stavudine) Meperidine HCl Tablets Percocet (Oxycodone and Acetaminophen) Xyrem (Sodium Oxybate) Fentora (fentanyl buccal tablet)

Check with your local pharmacy to see if any drug take-back programmes are offered. Such programmes are meant to encourage the public to bring their unused drugs to a location for appropriate disposal. These programmes provide a good way to dispose of unused drugs properly.


Make sure all the disposed drugs are out of the reach of children

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About the Author

Basharat Shah has been writing articles for eHow since 2007. He has published on several forums and in online journals such as JK Practitioner, and more. Shah has received Editor's Choice Award for his poetry. He is a physician by profession and earned his doctorate in internal medicine from Chicago Medical School.