Storing and Disposing of Medications: What to keep and where?

Dietary supplement bottle set alongside a weekly pill container

Remembering to take medications can be a difficult task. Many people use the medication bottles as a visual reminder, keeping them on the kitchen counter or bedside table. Daily or weekly pill cases also can serve as a reminder, and are a convenient way to store medications. However, these can be dangerous habits to others inside your home, unless you take additional precautions.

One of the most frequent types of call the PPC receives involves children opening the compartments of a pill case and ingesting some, or all, of the contents.  The frequency of such calls increases during the holidays, as many people use these types of cases when traveling and visiting family members. There is no such thing as a “child-proof” pill case. Even those that are “child resistant” can be defeated relatively easily by a determined or curious child at a surprisingly young age.

The only way to reliably prevent children from opening a pill case is to store it in a locked container on a high shelf, secured with a combination or key padlock. Ask all visitors to secure their medications.  If you are visiting, ask ahead of time if the house to which you are going has a lock box and, if it does not, bring a small one or ask the household to purchase one ahead of your visit.  While it may add a few minutes to your routine, it will keep little ones and pets out of medications and safe.

National Drug Take-Back Day is October 22, 2016. If you no longer need a medication or if it’s expired, it is best to get it out of your home.

LOCKMED, a Pittsburgh-based company that produces home medication lock boxes, has collaborated with the Pittsburgh Poison Center to emphasize the importance of locking up all prescription and over-the-counter drugs at home. For more information, visit

Disclaimer: The primary purpose of this material is for general informational purposes only and should be interpreted as an endorsement of any particular product by the PPC (part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center).

Your local poison center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to answer any additional questions and to address any poisoning concerns. Call 1800-222-1222 from a phone with your local area code to contact the correct center.


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