The prevalence of unused medications in homes has dramatically increased in recent decades, which has resulted in medication wastage. The aim of this study is to review the prevalence of unused medications in homes and to determine the reasons behind this disuse, so as to help reduce such wastage. The review also sheds light on current methods of disposal of unwanted medications. Here, using a narrative review, we provide an overview of the issues of unused medications, medication wastage, and methods of disposal. We conducted an extensive literature search focusing on subject-related keywords, as given in the methods section below. A search was undertaken through indexing services available in the library of the authors’ institution. Full-text papers concerned with the prevalence of unused medications in homes, written in English language between 1992 and 2018, were retrieved and reviewed. Twenty-five related studies performed in different world regions were reviewed and included. The public, healthcare providers, and governments are all accused of promoting medication wastage in different ways, and thus, they need to be targeted to solve the problem. It was also noticed that the prevalence of unused medications is high in many countries. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are among the most frequently wasted medications, and most of the public just dispose of their expired medications in the trash or toilet. Non-adherence, death, and medication change are among the main causes of medication accumulation and consequent wastage. A lack of policies to return unwanted medications in some countries, as well as public unawareness, carelessness, or illiteracy, are reasons for improper disposal of unused medications that may lead to adverse economic and environmental impacts. Various mitigation strategies (e.g., smart medicine cabinet) have emerged to reduce medication wastage. Joint work among the public, healthcare providers, and various governmental and private organizations is needed to adequately address the issue of medication wastage.
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