Don't let unused meds pile up, donate them instead: Experts

Filed on January 19, 2020 | Last updated on January 19, 2020 at 06.05 am


The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has been running a campaign called 'Clean Your Medicine Cabinet' since 2013.

Medications usually come in boxes and bottles and, sometimes, several tablets and capsules end up sitting in medicine cabinets for months - or, worse, years. However, did you know that some of these can still be used by needy patients?

Experts are reiterating their reminder for families to clear their medicine cabinets and return unused prescription drugs to authorised pharmacies and hospitals.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has been running a campaign called 'Clean Your Medicine Cabinet' since 2013. It has collected Dh12 million worth of medicines in 2019.

And since its launch, it has donated Dh29.5-million medications to UAE charities.

Resident Begum Zainab Sharif, 68, wasn't aware of the initiative until now.

"Usually, the stocks are overflowing at home. It would be very nice if some of these medicines can be disposed of in a safe way or handed over to charities who can help people in need," said Sharif, who is often busy taking care of her children and grandchildren in Dubai.

Now that she knows that DHA accepts unused medicines, Sharif vows to make a donation and spread the word.

Drop them off in your next visit

Through the drive, residents are encouraged to drop off unused medicines - including expired ones - at DHA's primary health centres, pharmacies, and hospitals (Dubai Hospital, Rashid Hospital, Latifa Hospital and Hatta Hospital).

Medicines that have already expired are disposed of in an eco-friendly way.

Those that are still fit for use, on the other hand, undergo quality checks before they are given to charities.

Dr Ali Sayed, director of pharmaceutical services at the DHA, said: "This year, we hope that more families will come forward and help us in our mission to dispose of expired medications properly and support charities. It is something that can help both the environment as well as those in need."

Endorsing a similar view,Dr Sherbaz Bichu, CEO of Aster Hospitals, said: "In addition to donating unexpired medicines to those in need, proper disposal practices of expired prescription drugs need to be followed.

"Common practices are flushing them or disposing them in garbage bins, but these are not recommended. The ideal way is through the medication take-back programme."
Dr Masarat Mehboob, an internal medicine specialist at Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah, recommends sharing a list of medicines at home with doctors or healthcare professionals.

"It will be valuable for people with chronic medical conditions to bring their 'medical kit' with them when going for a prescription refill. Then, we should try to donate the extra medications," she said.

How to safely store medicines

. Medicines should be out of reach of children and pets at all times

. Never tell your children that medicines taste like candy, sweets, etc. Let them know from a young age that these are consumed only to recover from an illness

. Read proper storage instructions for all medications (for example, certain antibiotics should be stored at 2 to 8 degrees)

. In general, medications should be stored at room temperature, below 25 degrees

. Medications should be stored away from sunlight and humidity

. In the summer months, ensure medications are placed in an air-conditioned room or in cooler areas of your house

. Some need to be kept in the refrigerator

.Make sure that medications in the fridge are placed in an area where they will NOT freeze

. You should store medicines in a box or container that sets them apart from your food section

. Avoid storing medicines in the kitchen or bathroom because heat and moisture are usually generated in these areas

. Store all medicines in one designated location

. Write the date of opening on medications prominently and discard unused medication within one week, one month or as mentioned

. Never leave your medicines in the car; the heat destroys their effectiveness

Never flush them down the toilet

Experts have noted that not many people are aware of the risks posed by improper disposal of medicines.

"Flushing down your medication is harmful for the environment as this can pollute the water, while disposing of medicines in the garbage (even if they are tightly sealed) pollutes the soil," said Dr Ali Sayed, director of pharmaceutical services at the Dubai Health Authority.

"The best way to dispose of expired medications is to return the medicines to the pharmacy for safe disposal."

He added that keeping expired medication at home is also unsafe.


Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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