What you should do with expired and unwanted medicines

Stored away in bathroom cabinets and kitchen cupboards across the country are expired and unwanted medicines.

Not only are these out-of-date and no-longer-required pharmaceuticals taking up space, they are also potentially dangerous.

"The ingredients may not be active, so they might be ineffective or could potentially make you sick," said Toni Riley from the Return Unwanted Medicines national scheme, aka the RUM Project.

"The active ingredients can go off easily.

"Medicines are designed to be stored in specific temperature conditions and most of our homes don't comply with that and where people keep their medicines is not ideal."

So if you have been hoarding unused antibiotics or prescription medicines "just in case", it is time to get rid of them.

Also check the use-by date on common over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol tablets, cough syrups and topical creams.

"If you're not using them anymore, what's the point of keeping them?" Ms Riley toldĀ ABC Radio Canberra.

Long-forgotten medications could also end up in the wrong hands.

"We know about 5,000 children are hospitalised each year because they've taken medicines they've found in their own homes," Ms Riley said.

"So the less we have hanging around the better."

Keeping expired pharmaceuticals around the home could also confuse someone taking multiple medicines, particularly elderly people.

Return medicines to your local pharmacy

Medicines of all kinds should not be flushed down the sink or toilet, nor thrown into the household bin.

"Ultimately they end up in landfill and they can leach into our waterways and damage the environment," Ms Riley said.

Instead, bag up your unwanted and expired items and take them into your local pharmacy.

Prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbal or complementary supplements, gels, liquids and creams can all be returned.

"There's no questions, it's all very private, it just goes straight into the RUM bin ... and then sealed up and sent off to a high-temperature incinerator," Ms Riley said.