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Don’t flush unwanted medicines: consider the environment

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People who have unwanted medicines sitting around home should not flush them down the toilet, or throw them in the garbage – instead you should consider the effects on the environment.

Medicine-web.jpgIt is prohibited to throw medicines in landfills because of the risk to the environment, and flushing them down the toilet or hand basin could result in waterway contamination.

Since 2009-10 MidCentral District Health Board has worked with all pharmacies in its district to offer a free, safe collection and disposal service of all unwanted medicines and medical sharps waste, like needles.

Since then, they have accepted any unwanted and expired over-the-counter and prescription medicines, and sharps’ products.

In the eight years since the pharmacy collections started in the MDHB district, the number of returned medicine items (an item is a box of tablets or a bottle of medicine) has almost doubled from 60,500 items in 2009-10, to 117,800 in 2016-17.

All returned medicines are counted by one pharmacy and results analysed to see why more of some medicines are returned ahead of others, and to see if best practice guidelines can be implemented to reduce any unwanted prescriptions to patients.

Patients however, are reminded they should take the full course of medicines prescribed so they get  the full benefit of the medicine (unless they are advised by the health practitioner), and they certainly shouldn’t offer family members and friends who have similar illnesses any of their ‘leftover’ medicines.

All unwanted returned medicines are disposed of safely by Interwaste – New Zealand’s largest, national medical and clinical-waste disposal company.

Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945

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