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If you or a loved one ever battled cancer, chances are there is a medicine cabinet and/or drawer filled with bottles containing leftover pills, tablets or patches. This cornucopia of containers creates clutter and a potentially dangerous situation.

Ken Komorny, Pharm.D., BCPS, chief pharmacy officer at Moffitt Cancer Center, says medications -  specifically controlled substances - that are thrown away could accidentally or intentionally be taken from the trash and consumed. Plus, time changes the way medications work and drugs should not be taken past the expiration date listed on the packaging.  

Komorny recommends discarding leftover medications and vaping devices during a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 26, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Moffitt is not a location to drop off unused medications, but there are several locations nearby. Find a location near you by clicking here.  

If you are unable to participate in a Drug Take Back Day event, the FDA recommends:

  1. Removing the drugs from their original containers and mixing them with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds, dirt, or cat litter. This makes the medicine less appealing to children and pets and unrecognizable to someone who might intentionally go through the trash looking for drugs.
  2. Putting the mixture in something you can close such as a resealable zipper storage bag, empty can or other container, to prevent the drug from leaking or spilling out.
  3. Throwing the container in the garbage.
  4. Scratching out all your personal information on the empty medicine packaging to protect your identity and privacy and throwing the package away.

If you have questions about your medicine, or how to dispose of unused medication, ask your health care provider or pharmacist.