Patients' knowledge and practice on disposal of medicines kept in households in South Africa: findings and implications

Kesentseng Jackson Mahlaba, Elvera Anna Helberg, Brian Godman, Amanj Kurdi, Johanna Catharina Meyer

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Objectives: The disposal of unwanted, unused or expired medicines is a concern. Currently, there is little knowledge regarding their disposal among patients in South Africa. Consequently, a need to address this. Methods: Descriptive and quantitative study with patients conducted among 16 primary healthcare clinics (PHC) in South Africa. A structured questionnaire was administered to 171 conveniently selected patients. Data on ideal disposal methods was collected and compared to actual disposal practices. Findings: 74.9% of patients reported having unused medicines at home, of whom 34.4% wanted these medicines disposed of. However, 64.9% did not know how to dispose of them while 95.3% reported having never been informed by healthcare professionals on how to dispose of them. Whilst patients prefer to return medicines to their PHC, only 7.0% actually did so. Ideal disposal practices proposed by patients included designated collection task teams (25.1%) and dissolving medicines in water (38.6%). However, current practices indicated patients flushed medicines down the sewer (31.6%) or disposed of them in municipal-bins (23.9%). Conclusion: Patients disposed of their unwanted medicines using incorrect disposal techniques which they thought correct. This urgently needs to be addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-18
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Research in Pharmacy Practice
Issue number1
Early online date18 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2022


  • medicine disposal
  • patients
  • household medicines
  • South Africa


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