It’s time to clear out your medicine cabinet and reap the benefits…
We are a nation of people who are unable to throw things away. In fact, a Twitter poll by Pharma Dynamics showed that 89% of South Africans haven’t cleared out their medicine cabinets in the last two years. However, when it comes to the contents thereof, it’s one of those tasks that could save space, cash, and even stop you getting sick.
Use-by dates on medication indicate how long the potency of the active ingredients can be guaranteed. This makes it potentially dangerous to take meds after that date.
“They may be ineffective or could cause further harm as a result of degraded ingredients,” warns pharmacist Stuart Gale.
Can’t find an end date on the packet? Check for any changes in appearance (has a liquid separated or changed colour?) and texture (tablets becoming softer, crumbling, or sticking together).
“Remember that some items, such as eye drops, can have a limited expiry after opening,” says Stuart. This is due to the potential contamination from bacteria once opened.
Don’t hoard for later
Been prescribed medication by your GP but not finished the whole course? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that millions of rands are wasted every year on partially used medicines. However, with antibiotics, you could be doing yourself serious harm.
“A course of antibiotics is prescribed to treat that infection alone,” says Stuart.
“Antibiotic resistance, as a result of people taking old, half-used prescriptions to treat new self-diagnosed ‘infections’, must be treated with the utmost seriousness.” If in doubt, ask your pharmacist.
Upgrade the thermometer
If yours is decades old, it may be time to go digital. “Any thermometer will do the job, but digital ones don’t carry the risk of a child biting a glass thermometer with mercury in it,” says Stuart.
Loss of stickiness isn’t the only problem with old plasters. “They have a date beyond which sterility is no longer guaranteed,” says Stuart. “Look out for packaging with a use-by date.”
Don’t fill up with fakes
It’s estimated that half of all drugs sold from disreputable websites are fake. Some drugs are bootleg versions in different doses from those on the label and produced without quality control. One heart drug seized by EU customs officers contained brick dust coated with yellow paint.
Did you know?
Storing medications by a bathroom or kitchen sink exposes them to damage from dampness and light.
Take all used inhalers and expired medicines to your pharmacy for safe disposal. DO NOT put them in the dustbin or flush them down the toilet.