Expired OTC Medications/Disposal of Expired Medications

Policy Approve By
Dr. Dean O. Stenehjem, Superintedent
Policy Date (original policy date)
Revised (date text was last updated)
Policy Prepared By
Robin Williams, RN
Policy Category



1.   Check expiration dates on all Over the Counter (OTC), prescription, and narcotic medication at the beginning of every month.

2.   Any medication that is expired or is no longer in use will be disposed of in one of three ways:

a)   The medication will be given to a drug take-back program. Some community disposal companies offer drug take-back as an option for certain medications. A list of facilities that accept medications can be found at www.takebackyourmeds.org.

b)   The medication will be disposed of according to specific disposal instructions as listed on the label or on patient information provided with the medication. More information about safe disposal of specific medications can be found online through the National Library of Medicine.

c)   The medication will be thrown away in the garbage after being mixed with an undesirable substance. Before placing medication in the garbage, the medication will be taken out of its original packaging and mixed with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. The medication will then be placed in a sealable bag, empty can, or other closed container to prevent leakage into the garbage bag.

3.   Two nurses will witness the waste of medications and sign a Medication Administration Record (MAR) designated for medication waste.

4.   The following medications will be marked with the date they are opened on the outside of the container. The medications will be discarded using the guidelines above when the expiration date is reached.

Medication Type

Expiration Date


Eye Drops

90 days after opening


Ear Drops

90 days after opening


Nasal Sprays

90 days after opening


Bronchial Inhalers

90 days after opening


Nitroglycerin Tablets

6 months after opening


All Oral Liquids

1 year after opening


All Topicals (creams, ointments, gels, etc)

1 year after opening



30 days after opening at room temperature or refrigerated

14 days for pre-filled insulin syringes

Lantus- 28 days after opening

Multi Dose Vials

30 days after opening


Single Dose Vials

24 hours after first puncture


Hydrogen Peroxide, Alcohol Solution

30 days after opening