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What to Do with Expired Medicines

If you have any questions or concerns in managing your or your family's health, including pain, sart with a conversation with your healthcare provider and always read the product information.

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What to Do with Expired Medicines

Like many, you probably have old or expired medicines stacked away in your medicine box or cabinet – but how often do you check the expiry dates on the packaging or have a clear-out? 

Before taking any medicine, always check the expiry date.  Using old medicine, including topical gels, liquids, or pills that have expired may not help you treat your condition, or even make you feel worse. 

Unsure what to do with expired medicines? We’ll explain why you should never take expired or old medicines, how to correctly dispose of expired medicines safely and how you can recycle the packaging to be eco-friendly. 

Why You Shouldn’t Take Expired Medicines

Thinking of taking medicine that’s past its expiry date? Don’t. 

  • Once the expiry date has passed, there’s no guarantee your medicine will be safe or effective. In fact, old medicines can be less effective due to a change in their chemical composition.  Some expired medications may also be at increased risk of bacterial growth on their surface, potentially leading to unwanted complications.1
  • Certain medicines, have a particularly short expiration date – usually a few weeks.2 For example, antibiotic mixtures prepared by your pharmacist that require mixing the powdered antibiotic with water, usually have a shorter expiry date. That’s because adding water changes the stability of the product. These drugs, usually used to treat infections, may be labelled with a ‘discard’ or ‘beyond use’ that should be followed carefully. Taking expired antibiotics could leave you at risk of an even worse infection.  3
  • Sometimes, if you don’t store the medicine correctly or if the medicine’s container or packet has been damaged, the medicine may not be as potent as it should – even if it reached the expiration date yet. For more information about this, read our article about how to store medicines correctly.

There’s no need for guesswork when it comes to out-of-date medicine – to keep yourself and others safe, don’t take, keep, or store any medicine that has expired. 

Unsure whether you can use old medicine you’ve stored in your bathroom cabinet? Consult our do’s and don’ts but if you’re still unsure, always ask your doctor or pharmacist. 

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Expired Medicines Do's & Don'ts4


 Do always check the expiry date. Some medicines may say ‘best before’, ‘expires on’, ‘use by’, ‘discard by’ - or simply have a numerical date. 

 Do store medicines in their original packaging or container to avoid it expiring faster than it should.

 Do check and clear out your medicine cabinet every 6 months to get rid of anything that’s expired

 Do store all medications in a child-proof medicine box or cabinet to ensure children and pets can’t reach any medicine including those that might have expired


X Don’t take any expired medicines

X Don’t take medicines that look, smell or feel different from how they normally look 

X Don’t store your medicines in the bathroom or near sources of heat, moisture or light, as this could cause the medicine to expire faster.

X Don’t store or throw away old medicines where children or pets can get their hands (or paws) on them

How to Safely Dispose of Expired Medicines 

You might be familiar with storing medicines safely - but disposing of old or expired medicines is just as important. If you dispose of medicines in an unsafe way, you may risk a child or pet accessing them which can result in serious consequences  Improper disposal can also harm the environment.

 If you think a child has had gotten their hands on some expired medicine, seek medical advice immediately. Likewise, if you suspect your pet might have gotten their paws on some old medicine, call your vet. 

Can we flush syrups down the toilet? Is it okay to throw expired painkillers directly in the bin? Can you wash expired pain gels down the sink? Check our guidelines on how to throw away expired or old medicines so that it doesn’t harm children, pets or the environment. If in any doubt about how to dispose of your medicine, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. 

Do’s & Don’ts of Disposing Expired Medicines


✓ Return your medicine to the pharma where they'll safely dispose of it.5

✓Talk to your doctor or pharmacy about medicine that is potentially dangerous to other such as Controlled Drugs.7


X Throw your expired medicines down the drain, sink or flush them down the toilet as it could be harmful for our environment.6

X Leave expired medicines unattended8 or throw them straight in the bin as children or pets may be able to access them9

Disposing Expired Medicines in Eco-Friendly Ways 

When disposing of old medicines, we should all take care not to harm the environment. Learning how to recycle medicines correctly reduces the volume of waste in landfills, helps keep our waters safe and correct disposal of packaging means we can produce less paper and plastic. 

In many countries, the safest and most ecological way to dispose of expired medicines is to take them back to your pharmacy or ask your pharmacist for advice on how to safely dispose of them. For more help on this, visit our page on how to return your medicine

Whatever’s on your mind, we can put it right. Let’s Dispose of it right.


 Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines, FDA,
 accessed 05/07/21

Why Do Medicines Have Expiry Dates, NHS | accessed 28/07/2021

Are Beyond Use Dates Different Than Expiration Dates, Verywellmind | accessed 28/07/2021

Are Your Medicines Out of Date? Lloyds Pharmacy, accessed 05/07/21

Medicine Disposal | Old and Unused Medication | Healthera, accessed 25/08/21

Medicine Disposal | Old and Unused Medication | Healthera, accessed 25/08/21 

Controlled drugs: recording, using, storing and disposal, accessed 25/08/21 

Four risks of keeping expired and unwanted medicines at home - Return Unwanted Medicines (, accessed 25/08/21

What to do with wasted or unused medication – Medpac, accessed 25/08/21



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