by Dr. Iain Corness
A treasure trove in your bathroom?
I will never forget the time that a
patient brought me a 1.5 kg New Year present. It was a present that he had
saved for many, many months and had decided that I was the best chap to
It was a literal treasure trove in a large package. In fact it did contain
all sorts of goodies. There were capsules, tablets and lozenges and in all
kinds of wonderful colors. This would have been a toddler’s delight. And
completely potentially lethal.
The package was the result of the patient’s cleaning out of his bathroom
cupboard of outdated, or no longer needed, or even ‘unknown’ medicines. The
man was not a hoarder, but knew that medications should be kept out of the
reach of children, which he had been doing - for quite some time!
Now I am sure you remember the doctor telling you to keep on taking the
medication right to the end of the course, but human nature, being as it is,
when we start to feel better, we stop taking the meds. Right?
In theory, going right to the end of the course means that there are no
tablets or whatever left - but there always is, isn’t there! There is also
the other source of left over medication, and that is medication bought over
the counter at your local pharmacy. Written in Thai is something on the
outside of the packet, and of course you don’t read Thai either, and since
you got better anyway, you stop these as well.
So there’s the scenario, a bathroom cabinet full to overflowing! When he
started running out of room, the problem became apparent. How was he going
to get rid of them?
He was savvy enough to know that if he just ditched them in the local
rubbish bin, the recyclers would definitely consider them treasure trove,
and he could foresee some untrained person attempting to differentiate the
various pills and tablets and sell them somewhere. Paracetamol tablets do
generally look the same after all, white round ones, but so also do many
other medications, which are not as relatively safe to be taken
He then thought about flushing them all down the toilet, but decided that
1.5 kg of strange tablets might just block the precarious plumbing that
pervades in Thailand. When the locals are afraid of putting soluble toilet
tissue down the loo, what would strange foaming tablets do? Let alone
capsules and lozenges.
The next resort was to borrow a mortar and pestle from the local ‘som tum’
roadside kitchen and having ground them all to a paste then spread the
resulting pulverized mass over the garden as a somewhat powerful weedicide.
At least the grass would be germ-free! However, this was not really
practical either, as the som tum lady couldn’t wait the several hours that
was going to be necessary.
So I then became the last option, and with a smile he presented me with the
aforesaid 1.5 kg bag, with wishes for a very Happy New Year.
Abandoning my initial thoughts of hurling them from the top of the new 15
storey hospital building and watching people scrabble for free tablets, I
saw the chap in charge of Pharmacy at the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya who
assured me that yes, they could dispose of the 1.5 kg bag and contents, as
there was a service to allow total destruction of medications such as these,
under very secure circumstances, run by the Thai government, and he would be
happy to forward the 1.5 kg bag of goodies for the gentleman.
So there you are. It is probably a good idea as part of your New Year’s
resolutions, to clean out your bathroom cabinet of old, half used, undated,
expired and unknown medications, tablets, lozenges and mixtures. If the
quantity is too great for flushing down the loo (and 1.5 kg is too great),
then bring them to the hospital and we will ensure their safe destruction.
And, oh yes, you have a good New Year too. And do try and follow the
doctor’s instructions to the letter “Take until finished” or words to that
effect, will ensure no ‘leftovers’ in the bathroom!