Harvard Medical School urges readers to remove expired medications

Harvard Medical School recently published the Harvard Health Letter discussing the risks of using expired medications/vaccines including accidental poisoning or ineffective treatment: “Like any cupboard in your house, the medicine cabinet can easily become overstuffed with pills, potions, and creams that have expired or are no longer needed. But holding on to them can be dangerous. That’s why experts recommend weeding through your medicine cabinet regularly. “Check it every six months or when you change your clocks,” recommends Joanne Doyle Petrongolo, a pharmacist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “Make it a regular habit to protect your family.”

For all their value, the substances in your medicine cabinet pose some risks beyond the side effects of the drugs:

Accidental poisoning. The CDC reports that unintentional overdoses among children ages 5 or younger results in 60,000 emergency room visits each year. More than 90% involve children who get into medication on their own.

Drug abuse by other family members. Research suggests that 60% of people who misused opioids in 2015 did not have a prescription, and 40% obtained the drugs from family or friends.

When medicines are outdated or unnecessary, these risks become unacceptable. In addition, if medications have expired they may no longer be as potent. That could be very dangerous, for example, if you’re taking a drug for an unstable heart rhythm.”

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