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Millions of children live with unused prescription drugs and expired medications

“Unused and expired medications are a public safety issue and pose health risks to children."

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recycling, waste sorting and sustainability concept - woman throwing expired medicine pills into trash can
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Millions of children live with unused prescription drugs and expired medications, warns new research.

Nearly half of parents have leftover prescription medications in their home, according to the findings.

But researchers found the majority of moms and dads aren’t sure how to dispose of unused medicines.

More than 2,000 American parents took part in the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll.

“We found that it’s common for parents to keep medicines long after they are expired or no longer needed, which creates an unnecessary health risk for children," said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark.

“Younger children getting into medicine in the home is a major source of unintentional poisonings. For older children, access to these medicines brings risk of experimentation, diversion to peers, or other intentional misuse.”

Less than half of parents believe that over-the-counter medicine is less effective past its expiration date, while one in five parents think it’s unsafe.

“Parents may not realize that medicine is expired until they need it to address their child’s symptoms," Clark said.

“At that point, parents must decide if they will give the expired medicine to their child or go out to purchase new medicine.”

More than a third of parents say it’s never okay to give their child expired medicine, according to the findings.

But one in three parents believe it’s alright to do so up to three months past the expiration date, while around the same number say it would be okay after six months or longer.

“The expiration date is the manufacturer’s guarantee that a medication is fully safe and effective; over time, the medicine will lose its effectiveness," Clark said.

“Parents considering whether to give their child medicine long past its expiration date should question how well it will work.”

More than three in five parents say they are more careful about disposing leftover prescription medicine than over the counter medication.

But nearly three-quarters of moms and dads struggle with knowing how to dispose of it, with one in seven have flushed medicine down the toilet which may result in drugs getting in the water supply.

Clark said the safest choice is to drop off old pills at a permanent collection site at a doctor’s office, pharmacy or hospital.

She said people unable to return medicine to a collection site, should dispose of it in the household rubbish. Medicine should go into a plastic bag, be dissolved with water and mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds to make it unappealing for children or pets to eat. Sealing the bag will prevent the medicine from leaking.

“Unused and expired medications are a public safety issue and pose health risks to children," Clark said.

“It’s important that parents dispose of them properly when they’re no longer needed to reduce risks of kids getting sick as well as the negative impact on the environment.”

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