A good day to check your medications


Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

For many people, medications are a mainstay for preventing and treating disease. Managing multiple conditions and multiple medications can be confusing, especially if you store some of your pills in the medicine cabinet and others in a kitchen cabinet or pill drawer. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to take inventory of all of your medications. As a reminder to do just that, the American College of Endocrinology has declared April 15th as National Check Your Meds Day. Here’s what the college recommends:

  • Look everywhere you may store medications—medicine cabinet, bathroom counter, toiletry bag, refrigerator, purse, sock drawer, etc.
  • Check the label for the name of the prescription and the dosage. Confirm that what you got from the pharmacy matches what your doctor prescribed. Contact your pharmacy if they don’t match exactly.

One reason the American College of Endocrinology recommends this kind of inventory is that insurance companies or pharmacies may substitute one brand-name or generic medication with another one without notifying you. Although this usually doesn’t make a difference, it’s good to know exactly what medication and what formulation of it you are taking. (If you aren’t 100% sure what a particular pill is, you can look it up at the Pill identifier on Drugs.com.)

Another reason is that it’s important to check expiration dates. For most medications, going a few months beyond the expiration date is okay. Beyond that, it’s time for a new prescription.

If you have expired medicines, don’t just toss them in the garbage. They could pose a safety hazard to children or animals if they somehow get out of the trash. Medicines in dumps and landfills are also making their way into our drinking water. Some pharmacies take back expired medications. The Boston Police Department and some other local law enforcement agencies offer collection boxes for out-of-date medications. If you can’t find a take-back program, here’s what the FDA recommends for most drugs:

  • Take the medication out of its original container, mix it with used coffee grounds, kitty litter, or dirt, and put this unappetizing blend in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid or in a sealable plastic bag. Put the container or bag into your regular garbage.
  • Scratch off the prescription label and any identifying information from the original container to protect your identity and the privacy of your health record, and recycle or dispose of the container.

The FDA’s Web site provides a list of the 25 “flush-only” drugs as well as more information on disposing unwanted medications.

Related Information: Harvard Health Letter


  1. fire proof door

    Never depend your self from taking those medicine there are still some herbals that help heal disease.

  2. Adam

    This really should be placed in our to-do lists in a regular basis. Checking the expiration date and the indications of the medicines should always be checked. We only live once, better take care of it properly.

  3. Steven

    Checking expiration dates are extremely important, I have purchase a bottle of pills, and mixed up with my old one. Felt even worse until I have understood why this was happening to me

  4. fire exit door

    I believe that having doctor check you out and take doctors prescription is always the best for patient or anyone who is sick.

  5. Health Bat

    I believe that taking the right medicine for the right disease is must important for recovering the disease as soon as possible and this blog is also related with the same. I worth to read it.

    • Robert Pacl

      When you talk about drugs that “cure”, I assume you’re talking about antibiotics. I’ve never had any other drug that “cured”. I got symptomatic relief as long as I was on them, but no cures. I also got side effects free. I didn’t have to pay extra for them. If you know of any drugs other than antibiotics, that cure, please tell me. They might come in handy some day, until the drug company says
      “stop production – they’re a loser”

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