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Safe disposal of expired or unused medication

Prevent the misuse of medication

Medication that is expired or unused (following the death of a loved one, for example) must be returned to a pharmacy. Disposal of this medication is usually free of charge and prevents the risks to you and others from accidental or deliberate intoxication. Inappropriate self-medication, adverse reaction and harmful interactions with other medication are also avoided.

Tip: When you buy over-the-counter medication, don’t immediately reach for the largest size, but rather the one that meets your needs, taking into account the expiry date indicated on the package. 


You can return expired or unused medication to any pharmacy in Quebec, at any time of the year, particularly:

  • once a year, after sorting through your medicine cabinet. Choose a time of the year that is easy for you to remember, such as during your fall or spring cleanup;
  • after a loved one has died, return his or her medication;
  • when there is a change in dosage or medical treatment;
  • at the end of a medical treatment.

The sooner the better.


  • any medication sold under prescription or controlled by a pharmacist, including opioids for pain or cough relief;
  • over-the-counter medication;
  • natural health products;
  • veterinary medication;
  • unused antibiotics, while respecting the duration of the treatment prescribed.

If you don’t know if a medication is still good, your pharmacist can tell you its shelf life.

Specific instructions

Before returning the medication to a pharmacy, take note of the following:

  • Injectable medications, syringes, needles, lancets used for blood glucose testing and other sharps must be returned in a sharps container and sealed to prevent injury. You can get this type of container for free at a pharmacy or in injection equipment access centres (CAMIs) located in some community organizations, CLSCs and hospitals. See the page Recovery of used syringes and needles for more information.
  • Medication purchased from a veterinarian must be returned to the veterinarian.
  • Empty medicine bottles should not be returned to the pharmacy.
  • Do not return any other products, such as hair dyes, toothpaste, sunscreen, or nail polish.

Protecting the environment

To protect the environment, expired or unused medication must not be thrown out with the household garbage, down a sink, in a toilet or in the municipal sewer system.

Expired or unused medication returned to the pharmacy will be safely disposed of by a specialized company in full compliance with the current environmental protection legislation.

Last update: September 16, 2022


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