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[Southern Regional Drugs Task Force] DUMP campaign. (09 Feb 2011)

Free service to dispose of unused medicines properly (DUMP)

A free service to dispose of unused or out of date medicines will be available to the general public in Cork and Kerry from 14th February 2011.
Dump poster

The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign, which has been organised by the HSE with the community pharmacists in Cork and Kerry and supported by Cork City Council, Cork County Council and Kerry County Council will commence on Monday 14th February 2011 and run in participating pharmacies until 28th March 2011.

More than 240 pharmacies are participating in the campaign and are actively encouraging people to return unwanted or out of date medicines to them so that it can be disposed of safely and properly.

Medicines can accumulate in the home for a variety of reasons e.g. unfinished courses of antibiotics or a condition/illness that is no longer a problem and subsequently the remainder of the medication is not used. Also, older people or someone with an ongoing illness can often have large amounts of medicine at home. Whatever the reason, the HSE and pharmacists would urge householders to take this opportunity to dispose of these unwanted medicines (prescription or over the counter) safely.

Louise Creed, HSE South Community Care Pharmacist explains why people should take this opportunity to safely dispose of unwanted medicines and said, “We would strongly urge people to take this opportunity to get rid of out of date or unused medicines. Medication can pose a real hazard in the home, particularly to children or other vulnerable people. Clearing out your medicine cabinet is something that should be done on a regular basis. Check all the dates and remove anything that is out of date or no longer required. As well as the hazards posed by overdose, accidental poisoning and damage to the environment, medicines can change when out of date and may end up being harmful.”

Storing large quantities of medication at home can pose a hazard and put people at risk of;

* Accidental poisonings (particularly in children)
Brightly coloured medications or liquids can easily be mistaken for sweets or drinks by children or other vulnerable people. In 2007, the National Poisons Information Centre received a total of 11,011 enquiries, mostly involving pharmaceutical overdoses, with Paracetamol and Ibuprofen being among the most common agents. 4,375(52.9%) of these enquiries involved children under 10 years(note: it is assumed that all cases involving children under the age of 10 are accidental). Most cases of poisoning occurred in the home or a domestic setting. There are an average of 8 accidental deaths due to medication poisoning each year in Cork and Kerry.

* Inappropriate sharing of medicines
It is important that medicines are taken as directed by the person for whom they were prescribed and only that person. Medication is prescribed to cure illness/infection, however, sharing or not completing courses of medication may cause illness, injury, or even death. Also, when antibiotics are used inappropriately (i.e. not completing the course or sharing with someone), not all bacteria are destroyed and more resistant bacteria survive and multiply. These drug-resistant bacteria then make it harder to prevent and treat infections because fewer antibiotics are effective against them.

* Overdose suicide attempts
Every year more than 1,000 people present to hospital emergency departments in Cork and Kerry due to intentional overdoses of medication (accounting for three-quarters of all parasuicide/deliberate self harm presentations). While several medications can be taken in the overdose acts, almost half (44%) involved a minor tranquilliser, 33% involved medicines containing Paracetamol and 25% involved antidepressants/mood stabilizers. In Cork and Kerry each year there are approximately 90 deaths by suicide. On average 14 (16% or one in six) of these are due to an overdose of medication.

* Damage to the environment
Unwanted medicines are often dumped with other household waste, flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. These methods of disposal can seriously harm the environment with products ending up in landfill, permeating the soil and entering our food chain and water supply.

David Lane, Drug & Alcohol Services Co-ordinator, HSE South, “The pharmacies involved have all embraced the campaign and are actively encouraging people to return unwanted or out of date medicines to them. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is ensure these medicines are disposed of properly and safely. Please take some time to check out what’s in your cabinets and avail of this free service over the coming weeks.”

Most households will always have a quantity of medicine in their home and it is important that it is stored correctly and out of reach of children or other vulnerable people. There are a number of steps you can take including:
* Ask your pharmacist to put your medicines into a child-resistant container. Remember these caps are child-resistant not childproof!
* Keep all medicines, even seemingly harmless medicines, well out of reach and sight of children on a high shelf or in a locked press. Don’t forget that children can climb higher than you think!
* Ensure that your child-minder keeps medicines out of your children's reach
* Remember that grandparents and older people are more likely have medication in their homes, so when visiting their house make sure all medicines are out of children’s reach
* Always keep medicines in their original pack or bottle and do not take the label off
* Keep your medicines in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight and away from direct heat (e.g. a radiator or fire)
* Medicines should not be stored in the kitchen or in the bathroom. The heat and steam in these rooms could damage the medicine
* Some medicines must be kept in the fridge. Check the label or leaflet - you will see a statement like “Store in a refrigerator” or “Store at 2°C – 8°C”. Medicines should never be in direct contact with food in the fridge. If you have a freezer compartment in your fridge, don’t put medicines in the shelf below it in case they freeze. If your medicine freezes, check with your pharmacist if it is still safe to use
* Ask your pharmacist for advice if you are unsure about where to store your medicines
* Don’t hoard medicines, unless they are part of your family First Aid kit
* All the same precautions should be taken for household chemical products such as bleach, disinfectants, white spirit and weedkillers, which should be locked away and out of reach. Dispose of old household chemical products at a “Chemcar Collection” provided by local authorities.

The ‘Dispose of Unused Medicines Properly’ (DUMP) campaign has been operating successfully in the HSE South (Cork & Kerry) since 2007. Last year, more 260 bins, containing 3.5 tonnes of medicines, were safely disposed of as part of the campaign.

Ms. Creed added “The results for the 2010 DUMP campaign were very encouraging. The campaign gave the HSE and the people of Cork & Kerry the opportunity to work together and dispose of out of date or unused medicines and raised the public’s awareness of how excess medicines in the home can pose a hazard particularly to children or other vulnerable people. I would, therefore, encourage people to get involved in this year’s campaign again to ensure it is as successful as 2010.”

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