RUM is a shortened description for Return Unwanted Medicines, a not-for-profit Company. The RUM Project is funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Health and has been formed to facilitate the collection and disposal of unwanted medicines from the community. The project operates nationally with the cooperation of the pharmaceutical industry bodies in Australia.
These are medicines either purchased by you or your family and no longer required, or prescribed by a doctor for a previous condition no longer present. “Out of date” medicines should also be returned for disposal. (Consumers should always check the Expiry Date on medicines). It is dangerous to assume that previously used medicines are suitable for new ailments. You should always consult a pharmacist or doctor before taking medicines prescribed for another condition. It is preferable to discard (return) medicines no longer of immediate use. “Out of date” medicines are potentially dangerous. Chemical changes to some medicines after their use-by date can result in toxic products. Out of date medicines should be returned for disposal.
Prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, herbal or complementary supplements, gels, liquids, creams can be returned to community pharmacy to be disposed of in the RUM bin. Any medicines that you might have had for your pets can also be returned to the pharmacy to be disposed in the RUM bin. Restricted medicines and sharps or needles cannot be put in RUM bins. Talk to your pharmacist about the appropriate way to dispose of these items.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has strongly recommended that the recycling of returned medicines be ceased, for the following reasons:
The “integrity” of previously distributed medicines cannot be assured. Strict controls are in place to regulate the manufacture and storage of medicines in the manufacturer, wholesaler and pharmacy environments. Frequent reports of adulterated medicines have reached the media. We should not apply double standards – if we are not to use the medicines, neither should another country.
The recipient country often has no knowledge of medicines available in the “sending” country. Brand names differ, and most often the medicines sent are of no use in the circumstances existing in the receiving country.
Black Market operations in third world countries are often very active. The interception of drug deliveries is common.
The preferred WHO protocol for medicinal aid is:
A medical person (doctor, pharmacist or nurse) with authority in the need country prepares a list of specific medicinal requirements.
The list includes delivery address requirements, and names of responsible recipients for the medicines.
The list is provided to an official Aid organisation in Australia who contact manufacturers and wholesalers direct. The contact seeks donations of required medicines from manufacturers, or at least a heavily discount priced contribution. (Manufacturers in Australia are very generous in this regard).
The required medicines are collected, collated, and delivered to the country in need, and to the specific authority requesting the medicines.
NOTE: Access the full description of the WHO Guidelines and all the Australian guidelines for drug donations to developing countries.
Storing expired or medicines you no longer need in the house can be dangerous for numerous reasons. They may get into the wrong hands (e.g. young children or pets) and cause harm or poisoning, cause confusion to someone who is taking multiple medicines, or they may no longer be effective.
Expiration dates exist on most medicine packaging, including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal / complementary supplements. Sometimes expiry dates may be located underneath labels, on the lid of bottles, or at the end of cream tubes. If you can’t find the expiration date, ask your pharmacist and they might be able to help.
Yes. Once you return your medicines to the pharmacy, they are placed in the RUM bin which is stored in a secure area of the pharmacy, that is always supervised by a pharmacist. Once it is full it is then incinerated by an Environment Protection Authority (EPA) accredited facility. Just as you trust a pharmacist with your personal information when you fill scripts, you can trust your pharmacist to protect your privacy when you dispose of your medicines.
But if you are still concerned about your privacy, remove your medicines from the original packaging (on which the label is attached) and return just the medicines to the pharmacy for disposal in the RUM bin.
There are many factors that contribute to the potency of medicines including active ingredients, presence of preservatives, temperature fluctuations, light, humidity, and other storage conditions. Best practice is to return any expired medicines to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
The expiration date is the last day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medicine. Expired medicines may be less effective or hazardous due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Stick to the rule that if your medicine has expired, don’t use it – it’s not worth the risk.
Contrary to popular belief, the bathroom medicine cabinet is ideally not the place to store medications due to heat and humidity. Nor is the kitchen cupboard, above or next to the cooktop. Medicines are best stored in dry, cool spaces away from light, and of course out of reach of children and pets.
No. There is an Occupational Health and Safety risk that a needle-stick injury could occur to a handler from a needle penetrating the side, or lid, of a RUM container. For this reason, RUM cannot include sharps in the collection process. Sharps* should all be placed in an appropriate sharps container and returned to the correct disposal point – you pharmacist may be able to assist you in locating this.
* A sharp is anything that can cut or pierce your skin. It might be a syringe, broken glass or a blade. It can, in fact, be almost anything with a sharp edge, a hard corner, a point or a protruding part.
In the community, the most commonly used sharps are:
Evidence over many years confirms that medicines “stored” in the home can be the source of poisonings of children, and the source of confusion with aged patients. Accident and Emergency departments of major hospitals report alarming rates of poisonings of children due to household poisons (one in four admissions). Aged patients are often confused by the variety of medicines previously prescribed and then superseded by subsequent medicines. Medicines, and chemicals in general, can contaminate the environment when discarded via landfill sites and sewerage facilities. The collection and disposal of unwanted medicines is consistent with the “Quality use of Medicines” philosophy included in the National Medicines Policy
Community pharmacies collect these medicines at no cost to consumers. The Commonwealth Government through the Department of Health, has provided funding until 30 June 2022. The cost of the manufacture of the RUM bins, transport costs, storage of full bins prior to incineration, actual incineration costs, and the management of these arrangements are funded by the Government.
Returned medicines are disposed of by high temperature incineration. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved this process. Disposal of unwanted medicines is often done by flushing down sinks and toilets, or via household rubbish disposal into landfill. This disposal is potentially damaging to the environment, and disposal to landfill sites can expose medicines to both misuse and abuse by consumers. Fatalities have occurred following access to medicines discarded via household refuse.
Community pharmacists are the “medication managers” in the community. Access to a local pharmacy is convenient, and the process requires no additional collection costs.
In EPA approved incinerators across Australia.
Take all expired and unwanted medicines to your local pharmacy for disposal. Encourage family, friends and neighbours to also return unwanted medicines to their local pharmacy.
None of the returned medicines are recycled or reused by the pharmacy at any time. This is prevented by the best practice procedures.
Empty inhalers are safely disposed of in your normal rubbish collection but any inhaler that still contains some of the active ingredient, should be taken to the pharmacy to be put in the RUM bin.
An empty dose administration aid can be placed into your normal rubbish as it no longer contains any medicines but if there are still medicines in the pack then it should be returned to your pharmacy for disposal in the RUM bin.
In the unlikely event that the pharmacy is not able to take your unwanted medicines, please call the RUM office on 1300 650 835
No. All packaging (boxes, inserts) should be disposed of separately, as the bins accept only foil strips or loose tablets. Note that you do not need to take the tablets out of the foil strips.