How to manage your medicines

If you take any medicines – whether prescription or over-the-counter varieties, either regularly or occasionally – it’s easy to put them in your medicine cabinet and forget about them until you need them. But looking after your medicines is important. After all, when they’re kept at your local pharmacy, medicines are very carefully stored and controlled. When you get them home, however, it’s up to you to make sure they’re managed safely and effectively.

Storing medicines incorrectly or letting medicines get out of date can affect how they work. Here’s what you should know.

Storage solutions Keep your medicines in a cool, dry place. This means you shouldn’t keep them in your bathroom or even in a kitchen cabinet, as both places can often be damp and hot. It’s also advisable to store your medicines away from the sun, so don’t keep them on a windowsill or in your car. Some medicines – such as some medicines in liquid form (eye drops, for instance) – need to be kept in the fridge, though they shouldn’t be stored next to food. Always read the label for special storage instructions, and if you’re still not sure where you should keep your medicines, your local Careway pharmacist can give you all the advice you need.

Safe keeping Medicines – including vitamin supplements and herbal or other natural remedies – should always be kept out of the reach of children and animals by locking them in a cupboard or a drawer.

Memory aid If you take medicines every day, you may also want to put them in a safe place where you’ll remember to take them. You could also remind yourself by setting an alarm on your phone to go off at the same time each day. If you take several medicines regularly and find it difficult to keep track of them, ask your local Careway pharmacist to recommend a special pills dispenser that has compartments for different days and times of the day.

Keep the packets Always store your medicines in their original packaging, as the packaging they’re supplied in is designed to protect them. Don’t put any new tablets in an old bottle or combine different medicines in the same containers, as you need to be able to see the correct expiry date for each.

Understand your meds Whatever medicines you take, make sure you’re aware of everything you need to know about them. Your pharmacist can tell you all about the dose you should take and when you should take it, as well as special instructions such as taking it on an empty/full stomach. Your pharmacist can also inform you about any possible side effects you should be aware of.
Check expiry dates According to the NHS, once a medicine has passed its expiry date it may no longer be safe to take or it may have lost some or all of its effectiveness. Have a clear out of your medicine cupboard at least once a year to find any medicines that have expired.

Safe disposal The Department of Health claims an estimated one in nine households has at least one prescribed medicine that’s no longer being used. If you have any unused or expired medicines, take them to your local pharmacy where they can be disposed of correctly. Even if you haven’t opened the packet, prescription medicines cannot be recycled and should not be given to anyone else to use. Wherever possible, return unused or expired medicines to your local pharmacy in their original packaging, as some types of drugs need to be handled in a special way.

Think ahead Avoid running out of your medicines by not waiting to collect your prescription at the very last minute. Always make sure you have enough if you take medicines on a daily basis. Ask your pharmacist if they offer a repeat prescription service – many pharmacies now accept electronic prescriptions, which means you don’t have to collect a paper repeat prescription from your GP. Instead, all you have to do is collect your prescription from your pharmacy.

If you have any questions or concerns about managing your medicines, ask your local Careway pharmacist. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.