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Medicine cabinet spring cleaning

Now that spring has sprung, many of us start to purge our home of those items we don’t use or wear, and while the kitchen and bedroom are usually the focus of our spring cleaning tendencies, Susan Gordon, a CVS pharmacist in Tampa, Florida, took some time to explain why our medicine cabinet should also be a priority and how pharmacists can help you replace any of the contents you tossed.

Medicine Cabinet

Discard expired medicines Why is it so important for people to toss expired medicine?

Susan Gordon: Expired medications may lose effectiveness and should not be taken after the expiration date. When a drug goes untouched, the ingredients may decompose or evaporate, making the drug less effective. Some medications can also become rancid.

Properly dispose medications How can people properly dispose of medicine?

Susan Gordon: If a drug collection event is not available in your area, follow these guidelines from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for proper disposal procedures:

  • Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.
  • Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
  • Mix drugs with substances such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Put this mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
  • Conceal or remove any personal information, including Rx number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape or by scratching it off.
  • Place the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.

Keep medications stored safe and out of reach How can people properly store medicine or their medical cabinet must-haves?

Susan Gordon: Heat, light and moisture can cause active ingredients to rapidly decompose, making a drug less effective. Do not store medications where they can be exposed to extreme temperatures, excessive light or moisture. Avoid locations such as above the stove or on a windowsill. Most medications should be stored at room temperature, up to 75 to 85 degrees F. Do not store medication in the refrigerator, unless the pharmacist, label or package insert advises refrigeration after opening. In order to protect children, keep medication and vitamins out of reach and in a locked cabinet.

Talk to your pharmacist before purchasing medications When replacing items in your medicine cabinet, why is it so important to talk to a pharmacist about medicine before you purchase it?

Susan Gordon: Pharmacists have extensive education and ongoing training that makes them knowledgeable medication experts. They are your best resource for advice on how to take your medications, potential side effects and interactions with other drugs, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal supplements. Each trip to the pharmacy is also a great opportunity to identify potential ways to save money. For example, your pharmacist can help identify generic versions of your medications that are just as safe and effective, but at a lower cost.

Check with a pharmacist before mixing meds Can over-the-counter medication be taken with prescription medication without worry?

Susan Gordon: A 2007 CVS/pharmacy survey found that 48 percent of adult respondents never inform their pharmacist about over-the-counter products they are using while taking a prescription, and 30 percent only inform their pharmacist once in a while. This trend is worrisome, because over-the-counter medications, and even herbal remedies, can interact with prescription medications. For example, people with high blood pressure should be careful when taking over-the-counter cold and flu medications, which may contain decongestants that can raise blood pressure and possibly interfere with the effectiveness of prescription blood pressure drugs. It’s very important to talk to your pharmacist about all of the medications you are taking, so they can help you check for potential drug interactions.

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

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