Senior Aussies at risk from expired medications

It's time to take stock of your medicine cabinet.

Thousands of Australian seniors are putting their health at risk by using expired medication.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare found that more than 1000 seniors were admitted to hospital after taking out-of-date medicine and many more suffered adverse effects after unwittingly taking drugs that were past their used-by date.

Return of Unwanted Medicines (RUM) project manager Toni Riley says over-60s are particularly at risk of accidentally taking expired medication because they are prescribed more medicines than any other age group.

“Older people tend to have more chronic conditions so consequently they’re taking more medicine,” she told Starts at 60.

“So the potential for an adverse or untoward effect is much greater.”

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She says even if a person doesn’t have an adverse effect to the expired medication, they are still at risk because out-of-date medicines don’t perform like they’re supposed to.

“Expired medicines are usually less effective so they’re unlikely to have their full and proper reaction,” she explains.

This means that many people tend to remain ill or have their condition worsen over time.

RUM is urging all over-60s to take their unwanted or expired medications to their local pharmacy, which will dispose of them correctly.

Riley says paracetamol, insulin and antibiotics are the most commonly disposed of medications in Australia.

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In the 20 years RUM has been running, Australians have dumped a whopping 8 million kilograms of unwanted medicines; last year alone, RUM collected over 700,000 kilograms.

It’s not just over-60s who are at risk though. Each year more than 5,000 children end up in hospital with medicines poisoning.

Often, they have consumed expired medication they found at home or while visiting friends or relatives.

Riley says it’s important for grandparents to be diligent in keeping their medication out of reach for small children.

“A lot of people have their medication in their draw beside their bed because it’s convenient, but it’s also a perfectly good spot for children to find it,” she explains.

Visit for more information on how to correctly dispose of unwanted medication.

Have you cleaned out your medicine cabinet recently? Are you careful to hide it when your grandkids are visiting?