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Return unused pain meds

Friday, 12th July, 2019

Outback Pharmacies’ Alex Page with one of their medicine disposal bins. If you have unused pain medications, you can dispose of them at Outback Pharmacies’ Good Price, Temby’s and C P People’s stores during business hours. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Outback Pharmacies’ Alex Page with one of their medicine disposal bins. If you have unused pain medications, you can dispose of them at Outback Pharmacies’ Good Price, Temby’s and C P People’s stores during business hours. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is urging Australians to return unused prescription pain relief medicines to their local pharmacy, with nearly 150 people hospitalised every day as a result of the adverse effects of opioid pain medicines.

The TGA has warned that keeping unused prescribed painkillers for future-use can be dangerous, particularly with children and pets around the house.

Outback Pharmacies’ Alex Page said there were many potential hazards and dangers with keeping these medications lying around the home unused.

“Having opioid related pain relief at home, that you no longer require, is not a great thing to have there for many reasons,” he said.

“One, it’s unsafe, especially if it gets in the hands of children or pets.

“Two, I guess it could make you potentially a target for break-ins and that kind of thing because there is, unfortunately, a high market for diversion and misuse of opioids around Australia still.

“Steps have been made to address that and it’s on the decrease, I believe, but it’s still a sad reality we have to consider. 

“And the other thing is that most of the evidence coming out now about opioids is that they’re not particularly effective for the majority of chronic pain types, they’re only really effective for acute pain types.

“A patient shouldn’t be making that decision about taking something for headache or a backache without consulting their doctor because what they might be giving themselves might be too strong, might not be appropriate with medications they take or changes in medication they’ve had. 

“And this is something that can cause some harm if they don’t consult the right people before taking a dose.”

Sending the unused medications into one of the pharmacies was easy, he said, as well as the only safe way of getting rid of them.

“It’s just a matter of rounding it up, putting it in a bag or something to carry and saying, ‘these are medications that I no longer use or require,’” said Mr Page.

“For the process on our end, it goes into a special kind of bin which is called a ‘return of unwanted medicine bin’ or ‘rum bin’ for short.

“Those bins, once full, get sealed and they get sent back with our distributors and they’ll eventually go to a warehouse where they’re incinerated.” 

The old flushing-down-the-toilet method or dumping-in-the-bin method was not wise, he said.

“Flushing medications down the toilet can clog pipes and cause problems, and may not necessarily dispose of it correctly. 

“Putting it in the garbage, as we know, (means) pets and animals can get into it.

“And if it’s not sealed properly in bags, (they) can potentially spill out of the dump and be accessed by people as well.

“The safest and only effective way to get rid of medication is to bring it into the pharmacy and we’ll get rid of it for you.”

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