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Docs advise: Start ’09 off with fresh meds supplies

By Staff | Jan 1, 2009

Pharmacists and health experts are recommending that New Year’s resolutions include cleaning out medicine cabinets of old prescriptions or expired over-the-counter drugs.
Medicine cabinets, refrigerators and drawers tend to pile up with old items. And old medicines can be particularly dangerous if collected and forgotten in a cabinet.
“You should do this once a year, at least,” said Dr. Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in a prepared statement.
He said that pills not only lose potency over long periods of time but the heat from daily showers and baths also can make medications less effective. Furthermore, having a cabinet full of various prescriptions may cause a person to accidentally take the wrong pill.
Bruce Jacobs, from Edison Prescription Shoppe in Fort Myers, said people should clean out their cabinets at least twice a year to ensure their medications are effective.
“Doctors change medications, people change their needs and things go out of date,” said Jacobs. “The most common thing is that if drugs expire and they take it, it won’t work and do what it is supposed to do.”
Over-the-counter items such as adhesive bandages, pads, tape or ointment won’t expire, but Jacobs said they may not work as well as they should if they are older.
The real focus of cleaning out a medicine cabinet is to clear out expired medicine that is ingested.
“Bottom line is you don’t want to take medication that won’t do its purpose,” said Jacobs.
Medicines should be stored in a linen closet or dark area, according to ACEP, and shouldn’t be readily available to children.
Over three years researchers found that 9,000 children had accidentally ingested prescription medicine, according to a study by the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center-Denver Health.
Ninety-two percent of the incidents where children accidentally ingested prescription medicines occurred at home, according to the study.
For more information on health and safety around the home, visit emergencycareforyou.org.
When restocking a medicine cabinet the following items should be included:
* Adhesive bandages of assorted sizes
* Gauze pads
* Adhesive tape
* Thermometer
* Alcohol wipes and hydrogen peroxide
* Up-to-date prescription and over-the-counter drugs
* Antibiotic ointment
* Antacid
* Antihistamine
* Hydrocortisone cream
* Decongestant
* Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin
* Antiseptic wipes

— Source: American College of Emergency Physicians