Nearly 40% of U.S. households have at least one bottle of expired over-the-counter medication at home, according to a new study from Walgreen Co.

Walgreens, over-the-counter medication, Over-The-Counter Household Inventory and Consumer Attitude Study, expired medicine, GK Custom Research, Cheryl Pegus, drug store, OTC medicines, OTC medications, Safe Medication Disposal Program, medication disposal

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Many households hold onto expired OTCs, Walgreens finds

November 10th, 2010

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Nearly 40% of U.S. households have at least one bottle of expired over-the-counter medication at home, according to a new study from Walgreen Co.

The drug store chain said Wednesday that its 2010 Over-The-Counter Household Inventory and Consumer Attitude Study found that almost all households polled had OTC medicines on hand, the most common being pain relievers, cough/cold treatments and allergy relief. In individual interviews, most consumers said they were surprised to find expired medicine in their home, with half stating they are typically not aware a medication is expired until it is needed.

The online survey, done in association with GK Custom Research, was conducted among a nationally reflective sample of 500 OTC medication buyers age 18 and older, according to Walgreens. The survey covered household inventory, practices and attitudes related to OTC medicine purchase and use.

"With cough, cold and flu season now well under way, consumers should check for medications on hand, note expiration dates and replace commonly used medications as needed to make sure they're prepared to immediately meet their family’s needs in the event of an illness," Cheryl Pegus, chief medical officer at Walgreens, said in a statement.

Of consumers polled, 63% indicated that they would like to be more prepared in case of their own illness or the sickness of a family member.

"Coming down with an illness and not having an OTC pain reliever or cough/cold medication readily available only makes the situation worse," commented Pegus. "To ensure that you have safe medications at home, you should check your medicines for expiration dates with each change of season."

The study also found that 55% of those surveyed with OTC medications in their home said they are likely to knowingly take expired drugs, especially within the first few months after a medication has expired. Though most parents tend to check expiration dates more frequently, more than a third said they have given their children medication that had expired in the previous six month, according to Walgreens.

In addition, when consumers discard medicine, over 60% of those polled said they dispose of medications in the household garbage. In late September, Walgreens launched the Safe Medication Disposal Program, which enables customers to buy for $2.99 a specially designed envelope in which they can place, seal and mail medications they no longer use for safe, environmentally friendly disposal.