Purge your medications: September is medicine clean out month

Aug. 31, 2012

We all have them - medications that have lurked in our homes for far too long. To help seniors safely dispose of unwanted or expired medications, local pharmacies are partnering with the Stepping Out Safely: Healthy Aging 2012 initiative.

“Medications include prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin and herbal preparations,” explains Middlesex-London Health Unit public health nurse Melissa Rennison. “With the Canadian Institute for Health Information reporting that 23 per cent of seniors take 10 or more medications daily, it’s important for them to clean out the medications they’re not using to avoid the risk of accidentally taking an old medication.”

Medication is hazardous waste and must not be thrown out in the garbage or flushed down the toilet.

In September, seniors are encouraged to check their medications and return unused or expired medications to their pharmacies for proper disposal. Many local pharmacies will be distributing Medicine Clean Out bags to their senior clients. The pharmacies will also provide information on medication safety, and on alcohol, drug and mental health resources. Medicine Clean Out bags will also be available at some Community Centres. More information about Medicine Clean Out can be obtained by calling 519-433-0625.

Stepping Out Safely: Healthy Aging 2012 has over 100 events spanning a six month period geared to keeping seniors healthy. This initiative is supported by more than 50 community and business organizations to help older adults learn ways to stay healthy and prevent disease so they can maintain a good quality of life as they age. Each month has a theme including celebrating aging, physical activity, safety, nutrition and medicine clean out.

The organizations supporting Stepping Out Safely: Healthy Aging 2012 include the City of London, Council for London Seniors, Horton Street Seniors Centre, Middlesex-London Health Unit, Osteoporosis Canada, Third Age Outreach at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, and many community partners.

See next page for backgrounder on seniors and medications.

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For more information, please contact:
Linda Bakker, Council for London Seniors
519 433-0625

Backgrounder: Seniors and medications

Health Care in Canada, 2011:A Focus on Seniors and Aging examines the impact of a growing seniors population on the health care system and considers ways in which the system may need to adapt to meet seniors' current and future needs. This video focuses on seniors and their use of prescription medications. With a growing population of seniors, who tend to have increased health needs, it is essential to understand the risks associated with the high usage of prescription medications. This video presents some of the notable trends and issues from the report itself.

  • 63% of seniors were taking 5 or more prescription drugs at a time
  • 23% were taking 10 or more
  • 13% of seniors with a chronic condition who are taking 5 or more prescription drugs report a side effect from their medication
  • This is more than twice of the side effects reported among those taking one or 2 medications
  • 1 in 10 seniors are taking a drug considered potentially inappropriate for people their age

Health Canada. Disposal and Use of Pharmaceuticals. It’s Your Health (January 2011)

  • At least once a year, go through your medicine cabinet and remove all prescription and non-prescription drugs that are old or that you no longer take. Take them all back to your pharmacy or to your municipal waste disposal depot.
  • Furthermore, by collecting public’s unused, take-back programs can protect human health from risk of accidental poisonings, abuse, recreational use, etc. resulting from keeping unused, unwanted and expired pharmaceuticals in the home.

Ramage-Morin, P. L. (2009) Health Reports, Vol. 20, no. 1 March, p. 37 – 43

  • People who take several medications at once are more likely to have adverse drug reactions; seniors are particularly vulnerable because of co-morbidity and physiological changes that come with age.

Health Canada. Safe Use of Medicines. It’s Your Health (January 2011)
Some of the risks of using medicine include:

  • Adverse reactions when the medicine is combined with certain foods, beverages, vitamins, and herbal or other medicines – the more of these you combine, the greater the chance of a reaction

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