This is Why Purging Your Medicine Cabinet is Good for You (And Your Wallet)

Prescription drugs rest on a table in a person's home.
Oct. 21 is National Check Your Meds Day. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Mark your calendar, everybody.

Oct. 21 is National Check Your Meds Day, according to Consumer Reports.

Hey, stop rolling your eyes at yet another completely random holiday. This one is definitely more important than Hug Your Cat Day. And that’s coming from someone who really, really loves hugging her cat.

Why You Need to Check Your Medicines

Take a second to count how many prescriptions you pick up each month.

According to a Consumer Reports survey of nearly 2,000 adults, the average American takes four prescription medications. That doesn’t include over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or supplements.

“Much of that medication use is lifesaving or at least life-improving,” Consumer Reports writes. “But a lot is not.”

In fact, the report points out, nearly 1.3 million people went to the emergency room due to adverse drug effects in 2014, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

Of those folks who are taking prescription medications, more than half have never asked their healthcare provider if they should stop taking any. Of those who did ask, nearly three-quarters said their provider helped them cut down their number of prescriptions.

Now for the money part: IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics found Americans spend an estimated $200 billion per year on the “unnecessary and improper use” of prescriptions.

That’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s time to take a good hard look into your medicine cabinet and learn what to do with your old prescriptions.

3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Medicine Cabinet

I get it: It’s hard enough to remember to call in a prescription you need ahead of time, and you’re leaving those franic, “Hi, I’m sorry, but can I get this ASAP?!” messages for your pharmacist.

But cleaning up your list of medications is a lot easier than you might think.

Step 1: Talk With Your Pharmacist About a Review

Hey, that’s what Oct. 21 is for.

Apparently, this isn’t one of those random social media holidays, because pharmacists across the country are ready to help you out, including those at Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart — you name it. Just be sure to call and make sure they’re participating.

Many pharmacists are also willing to do this on any ole day, so if you’re busy this Saturday or have a social life or something, no worries. You can also ask your doctor on your next yearly.

Then, gather all your pill bottles, vitamins, supplements — whatever it is you take — and ask for a review. Pharmacists can help you find less expensive, safer drugs or even natural alternatives.

Consumer Reports outlines seven questions to ask.

Step 2: What to Do With Your Old Prescriptions

Do not follow your natural instinct to flush your drugs. That’s mostly in movies. When the cops are in hot pursuit. (Though some drugs, only a small number, are flushable.)

Instead, mark one more date on your calendar: Oct. 28. That’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Find a collection site near you, and drop off any expired or unnecessary drugs. If you miss this day, there’s another in April.

Or, if you just want to purge on your own, you can follow these instructions from the Food and Drug Administration

(It suggests mixing medicines with a substance like dirt or kitty litter. You just might feel like Walter White during this step.)

Step 3: Start Fresh — and Consider Door Delivery

Now that you know which prescriptions you actually need, Consumer Reports suggests filling them all at one pharmacy. That’s because the electronic filing system will be able to flag any potential problems or odd side effects when new drugs inevitably enter the mix.

You can certainly opt to go to your brick-and-mortar store, but you could also make it super easy on yourself and try out an electronic filing system, like Phil.

You’ll pay the same copay, but instead of leaving that awkward “Hi, I need it, like, yesterday” voicemail for your pharmacist, you can opt for auto-fill on your own schedule. Then your prescriptions will be delivered directly to your doorstep.

For free.

Plus, if you’re a Phil newbie, you’ll get $20 off your first prescription.

So whaddya say? This is actually one helpful made-up holiday, in my opinion.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. In the words of Young Joc, she’ll meet you at the pharmacy counter. ’Cause it’s goin’ down.

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