A free service to dispose of unused or out of date medicines will be available to the general public in Cork and Kerry from Monday 9th October to Saturday, 18th November 2017.
The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign has been organised by Cork Kerry Community Healthcare with the community pharmacists in Cork and Kerry and is supported by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Kerry County Council, and the Southern Regional Waste Management Office.
Almost all pharmacies in Cork and Kerry are participating in the campaign and are actively encouraging people to return unwanted or out of date medicines to them so that it can be disposed of safely and properly.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.
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“We would strongly urge people to take this opportunity to get rid of out of date or unused medicines.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 Check all the dates and remove anything that is out of date or no longer required. As well as the hazards posed by overdose, accidental poisoning and damage to the environment, medicines can change when out of date and may end up being harmful.”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 poisonings (particularly in children)
The Poisons Information Centre in Beaumont Hospital received 9356 enquiries in 2015 involving poisoning in humans. 5221 of these related to children under 10 years old. The top 50 agents involved in human poisoning included drugs (59%), household cleaning products and chemicals.
92% 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 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.
• Overdose suicide attempts
The National Suicide Research Foundation reports that in the first six months of 2016, there were 5,471 presentations to hospital due to self-harm. Drug overdose was the most common method of self-harm, involved in 67% of cases with prescription and over the counter drugs most commonly used.
• 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.
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 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.”
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 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. Dispose of old household chemical products responsibly at your local Civic Amenity Site.
The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign has been operating successfully in the Cork and Kerry. since 2007. In 2016, more than 270 bins, containing 4.04 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 and 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 to children or other vulnerable people. I would, therefore, encourage people to get involved in this year’s campaign to ensure it is another success.”