International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 822–828 | Cite as

Investigating the disposal of expired and unused medication in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: a cross-sectional study

  • Fatma Al-ShareefEmail author
  • Sarah Abu El-Asrar
  • Lamyaa Al-Bakr
  • Maisam Al-Amro
  • Fulwah Alqahtani
  • Fadilah Aleanizy
  • Sarah Al-Rashood
Research Article


Background Improper disposal of medication has several possible consequences such as childhood poisoning, environmental pollution, a negative impact on wildlife, and antibiotic resistance. The number of studies conducted to characterize pharmaceutical disposal practices is limited, particularly in the Middle East. Objective The aim of this cross-sectional study was to examine the behaviour of individuals with respect to the disposal of expired and unused medications. Furthermore, we aimed to identify the best methods of education regarding appropriate, safe disposal of medication. Setting The study was carried out in King Khalid University Hospital (KKUH), and King Saud University (KSU), during a 3-month period from February 2015 to April 2015. Method Twelve hundred patients were randomly selected from KKUH and KSU. Participants were invited to complete paper-based questionnaire with self enumeration. Pilot testing was conducted and involved 50 randomly selected participants. Main outcome measures The proportion of expired medications present in the home and their therapeutic groups, disposal methods of expired and unused medications, and preferred educational methods regarding safe and proper disposing of medications. Results A substantial proportion (79.15 %) of respondents disposed of unwanted medication via household waste, while a small proportion (1.70 %) returned unwanted medication to a pharmacy. Although currently practised disposal methods are undoubtedly unsuitable, 70.20 % of respondents considered finding appropriate, safe methods via which to dispose of unwanted medication their responsibility, and 78.6 % expressed an interest in receiving information concerning the correct disposal of unwanted medication. Conclusion We have demonstrated that a low percentage of respondents have ever received information regarding correct medication disposal. Moreover, the results have shown that over half of the respondents store antibiotics in their households. Additionally, respondents weren’t aware of the consequences of keeping expired medication at home. It is quite clear that the awareness of proper and safe drug disposal among the Saudi population is quite low making it a priority of concerned authorities to implement educational programs.


Medication disposal Medication waste Saudi Arabia Unused medications 



We would like to thank Amir S. Marzouk from KKUH, College of medicine research centre for his help in statistical analysis.


The authors acknowledge the Research Centre of the Science and Medical studies Departments at King Saud University for financial support.

Conflicts of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

11096_2016_287_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (232 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 231 kb)
11096_2016_287_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (106 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fatma Al-Shareef
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Abu El-Asrar
    • 2
  • Lamyaa Al-Bakr
    • 2
  • Maisam Al-Amro
    • 2
  • Fulwah Alqahtani
    • 3
  • Fadilah Aleanizy
    • 3
  • Sarah Al-Rashood
    • 4
  1. 1.Saudi Medication Safety Centre, Ministry of National Guard, Health AffairsRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  2. 2.College of PharmacyKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.Department of Pharmaceutics, College of PharmacyKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  4. 4.Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of PharmacyKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia

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