How to store and dispose of medications correctly?

Medications are designed to achieve maximum effectiveness within a specific temperature range.


In Colombia, at least ten drug-related poisonings occur every day, according to the National Institute of Health through the Public Health Surveillance System (Sivigila). The entity indicates that, by 2022, the figure in the country is 19,422 cases of unintentional poisoning as a result of chemical substances. Of these, 3,732 (19.2 percent) correspond to medications.

During the last decade, the number of poisoned people reached 100,000 and the number of deaths reached 29. This is a silent threat to public health in Colombia, since these are drugs that are stored for weeks, months or even years in medicine cabinets or bathroom drawers or nightstands in the hope that they may be needed. But that doesn’t happen.

Hence the importance of properly storing medications at home. The effectiveness and safety of these products are directly linked to the conditions in which they are stored. Therefore, when humidity and light exposure conditions are not respected, the quality of the drugs is compromised, and this is reflected in impairments to their therapeutic capacity, which represents risks to human health.

It is important to keep in mind, on the one hand, that medications are designed to achieve maximum effectiveness within a specific temperature range. Hence, when these conditions are altered, it can lead to the degradation of the active ingredients and excipients of these products, therefore reducing their level and effectiveness.

For experts, it is crucial to take safety measures when storing medications inside the home. Some of them consist of keeping products in their original containers to protect them from light, guarantee proper identification of the product, as well as its expiration date. Likewise, it is essential that, once the medications expire, they are deposited at the designated collection points and thus avoid environmental and public health risks.

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“In Colombia, we have more than 2,200 Blue Points throughout the country, where medications can be disposed of safely and responsibly. Furthermore, it is important to properly destroy medication packaging before throwing it away, to avoid its misuse in counterfeiting and smuggling processes,” says Dr. Alexandra Vega, medical and pharmacovigilance manager at Genfar.

It is important to remember that specific guidelines for storing different types of medications, such as liquids, tablets or capsules, are detailed on the packaging of each product. However, as a general rule, it is recommended to store them in cool, dry places, especially out of the reach of children to prevent accidents.

“Original packaging and labels play a crucial role in the proper storage of medicines, as they provide vital information about their use, dosage, contraindications and storage conditions. Maintaining these not only preserves their quality, but also helps avoid errors in administration and improper consumption,” added the specialist.

One of the great risks that exists is that its components end up contaminating the land and water sources. The water, in addition to being contaminated by the underground currents that pass under the landfills and flow into the rivers. It is also contaminated by the millions of discharges from toilets and kitchens, which, apart from physiological waste, carry soap, chemicals and medicines that, if not treated properly, also end up in bodies of water.

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