Drugs

Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know

 

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Overview

Medicines play an important role in treating many conditions and diseases, but when they are no longer needed it’s important to dispose of them properly to avoid harm to others. Below, we list some disposal options and some special disposal instructions for you to consider when throwing out expired, unwanted, or unused medicines.

Medicine Take-Back Programs

Medicine take-back programs for disposal are a good way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county government's household trash and recycling service to see if there is a medicine take-back program in your community and learn about any special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back. You can also talk to your pharmacist to see if he or she knows of other medicine disposal programs in your area or visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website for information on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events.

Disposal in Household Trash

If no medicine take-back program is available in your area, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:1

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds;
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
  • Throw the container in your household trash.
  • Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.

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Flushing of Certain Medicines 

There is a small number of medicines that may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed. To prevent accidental ingestion by children, pets, or anyone else, a few medicines have specific disposal instructions indicating they should be flushed down the sink or toilet as soon as they are no longer needed, and when they cannot be disposed of through a medicine take-back program. Click here for a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing. For example, patients in assisted living communities using fentanyl patches for pain should immediately flush their used or unneeded patches down the toilet. When you dispose of these patches and certain other powerful medicines down the sink or toilet you help to keep others safe by ensuring that these medicines cannot be used again or accidentally ingested and cause harm.

You may have also received disposal directions for these medicines when you picked up your prescription. If your medicine is on this list, and you did not receive information containing disposal instructions along with your dispensed prescription, you can find instructions on how to dispose of the medicines at DailyMed, by searching on the drug name and then looking in one of the following sections of the prescribing information:

  • Information for Patients and Caregivers
  • Patient Information
  • Patient Counseling Information
  • Safety and Handling Instructions
  • Medication Guide

FDA remains committed to working with other federal agencies and medicine manufacturers to develop alternative, safe disposal policies. Below is some additional information about flushing medicine when it is no longer needed. If you have additional questions about disposing of your medicine, please contact us at 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).

For additional information, see Medication Disposal: Questions and Answers.


Medicines Recommended for Disposal by Flushing

This list from FDA tells you what expired, unwanted, or unused medicines you should flush down the sink or toilet to help prevent danger to people and pets in the home. Flushing these medicines will get rid of them right away and help keep your family and pets safe.

Links in the list below go to medicine information for consumers that includes specific disposal instructions.

Click here for a printable version of this list (PDF - 61KB) (revised November 2013).


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Medicines recommended for disposal by flushing: medicine and active ingredient
Medicine
Active Ingredient
Abstral (PDF - 1M), tablets (sublingual)Fentanyl
Actiq (PDF - 251KB), oral transmucosal lozenge *Fentanyl Citrate
Avinza (PDF - 51KB), capsules (extended release)Morphine Sulfate
Buprenorphine Hydrochloride, tablets (sublingual) *Buprenorphine Hydrochloride
Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride, tablets (sublingual) *Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride
Butrans (PDF - 388KB), transdermal patch systemBuprenorphine
Daytrana (PDF - 281KB), transdermal patch systemMethylphenidate
Demerol, tablets *Meperidine Hydrochloride
Demerol, oral solution *Meperidine Hydrochloride
Diastat/Diastat AcuDial, rectal gel [for disposal
instructions: click on link, then go to "Label information"
and view current label] 
Diazepam
Dilaudid, tablets *Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dilaudid, oral liquid *Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Dolophine Hydrochloride (PDF - 48KB), tablets *Methadone Hydrochloride
Duragesic (PDF - 179KB), patch (extended release) *Fentanyl
Embeda (PDF - 39KB), capsules (extended release)Morphine Sulfate; Naltrexone Hydrochloride
Exalgo (PDF - 83KB), tablets (extended release)Hydromorphone Hydrochloride
Fentora (PDF - 338KB), tablets (buccal)Fentanyl Citrate
Kadian (PDF - 135KB), capsules (extended release)Morphine Sulfate
Methadone Hydrochloride, oral solution *Methadone Hydrochloride
Methadose, tablets *Methadone Hydrochloride
Morphine Sulfate, tablets (immediate release) *Morphine Sulfate
Morphine Sulfate (PDF - 282KB), oral solution *Morphine Sulfate
MS Contin (PDF - 433KB), tablets (extended release) *Morphine Sulfate
Nucynta ER (PDF - 38KB), tablets (extended release)Tapentadol
Onsolis (PDF - 297KB), soluble film (buccal)Fentanyl Citrate
Opana, tablets (immediate release)Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Opana ER (PDF - 56KB), tablets (extended release)Oxymorphone Hydrochloride
Oxecta, tablets (immediate release)Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycodone Hydrochloride, capsulesOxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycodone Hydrochloride (PDF - 100KB), oral solutionOxycodone Hydrochloride
Oxycontin (PDF - 417KB), tablets (extended release)Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Percocet, tablets *Acetaminophen; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Percodan, tablets *Aspirin; Oxycodone Hydrochloride
Suboxone (PDF - 83KB), film (sublingual)Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride
Xyrem (PDF - 185KB), oral solutionSodium Oxybate
Zubsolv (PDF - 354KB), tablets (sublingual)Buprenorphine Hydrochloride; Naloxone Hydrochloride

*These medicines have generic versions available or are only available in generic formulations.


FDA continually evaluates medicines for safety risks and will update the list as needed.  

List revised: November 2013


1Consumers are advised to check their local laws and ordinances to make sure medicines can legally be disposed of with their household trash.

For specific drug product labeling information, go to DailyMed or Drugs@FDA.


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Contact FDA

Toll Free
(855) 543-3784, or
(301) 796-3400
Human Drug Information

Division of Drug Information (CDER)

Office of Communications

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10001 New Hampshire Avenue

Hillandale Building, 4th Floor

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Page Last Updated: 11/25/2013
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