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May 8, 2003
For immediate release

PEI Medicine Cabinet Clean Up Encourages Islanders to Dispose of Medications Safely

Health and Social Services

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Prince Edward Island residents are encouraged to dispose of expired and unused medications safely during the PEI Medicine Cabinet Clean Up, May 12 to 18, 2003.

Health and Social Services Minister Jamie Ballem and Environment Minister Chester Gillan launched the campaign today in partnership with the PEI Pharmaceutical Association.

More then 30,000 PEI Medicine Cabinet Clean Up bags will be distributed through Island newspapers beginning this weekend. People are encouraged to put expired and unused prescription and over-the-counter medications into the bags and bring them to their local pharmacy for environmentally safe disposal. Bags are also available at more than 40 Island pharmacies.

"There is increasing concern about the impact pharmaceuticals may have on the environment and, particularly, water supplies if they are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash," said Minister of the Environment Chester Gillan. "The best way to dispose of unnecessary medications is to bring them to the pharmacy this week for environmentally safe disposal."

Betty Hutt, president of the PEI Pharmaceutical Association said that, through this important campaign, the partners also hope to increase public awareness and understanding of appropriate medication use.

"As pharmacists, we are always concerned about the amount of unused medications in Island homes which could be harmful if taken by children or taken mistakenly by adults. We also want to make Islanders more aware that medications lose some of their strength over time and may not work as intended when they are out of date," said Ms. Hutt.

"Medications can make us healthier, but they can also seriously harm us if taken the wrong way. Appropriate use of medications is a very important issue within the health system," says Health and Social Services Minister Jamie Ballem. "Although there are many valid reasons for discontinuing a medication, we know that approximately 50 percent of prescription drug users do not take their prescriptions as prescribed and this results in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations, more treatments such as physician visits and tests, and more nursing home care. Pharmacists are key members of the health care team. This is a great opportunity for us to continue to work together to educate the public to be better users of medication," he said.

In 1998, Prince Edward Islanders participated in the first ever Medicine Cabinet Clean Up. They returned more than 1,100 pounds of pills and medications valued at more than $100,000. All Island pharmacies are participating in next week's clean up. They will accept any prescription or non-prescription medications except sharps and large aerosol cans.

The PEI Medicine Cabinet Clean up is sponsored by O'Meara's Transport, RX&D Canada's Research Based Pharmaceutical Companies, Aventis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen Ortho, Merck Frosst, and Pfizer.


Questions and Answers

Q: How can medications be stored safely?

Do keep medicine away from children and pets, out of sight, out of reach.

Do keep medicines in a cool dry place away from direct light a good suggestion is in a box that can be locked or a high shelf (the cabinet in the bathroom is the worst place to keep your medicines it gets too damp and too warm).

Do keep medicines in their original labeled container and keep the cap closed.

Do not store medicines with food or household products.

Q: What are some useful tips for cleaning out my medicine cabinet?

Do go through all the medicines you have at home.

Do remove prescription medications that are old or that you no longer take.

Do take out old or expired nonprescription medications including cough/cold, pain, first aid, vitamin and herbal products.

Do remove medicines no longer in their original containers or with labels that can't be read.

Do take out medications that have changed color smell or taste.

Do return unused medications to a proper disposal site, do not dispose by throwing in the drain, the toilet or the garbage.

Q: How many claims are processed by the Provincial Drug Program?

A: In 2002-2003, the Provincial Drug Program processed more then 394,300 medication claims. These claims cost taxpayers more then $14 million.

Media Contact: Island Information Service
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