Take Stock of Best Practices for Returning Expired or Unneeded Meds

You play a big role in returning expiring or excess inventory.

Identifying expiring meds on a consistent, timely basis protects patients...controls costs...and helps avoid issues in an inspection.

And reducing overstock frees up shelves and inventory dollars.

Expiring meds. Ensure your pharmacy has a process for regularly checking expiration dates...or ask about making one if you don’t.

For example, some pharmacy teams assign and rotate staff to perform monthly checks of designated areas of the pharmacy.

Don’t overlook easy-to-miss items...such as fridge or freezer meds, diabetes supplies, testing kits, and special-order products.

Mark meds expiring within the next year or so with a colored sticker or other identifier...and rotate stock...so that these items can be used first or returned at the appropriate time.

Overstock. Look for excess inventory...and use computer reports to identify “slow movers.”  Find out if you can return these meds...or help transfer them to another pharmacy that will use them.

To limit overstock, check computer “order points” to make sure they’re accurate to the volume you’re dispensing...and readjust as needed. For instance, reduce flu or COVID-19 meds as the season wanes.

Return process. Be familiar with the return policies of your wholesaler, returns company, etc. Each has its own rules on what they’ll take back and when.

For example, companies may not allow meds to be returned if they’re too far beyond expiration...not in their original package, have an Rx label...or were purchased from another supplier.

Separate any meds you’re returning from the rest of your inventory...to ensure they aren’t accidentally dispensed.

Sort through returnable meds carefully. Controlled substances often need to be packaged and sent back separately from non-controls.

Remove Rx labels and any expiration stickers your pharmacy may have added to the product, if needed.

Ensure on-hand inventory counts are adjusted when returning meds...so you have an accurate record of what’s in stock.

Help track the status of each return using wholesaler portals, spreadsheets, etc...to make sure your pharmacy receives credit.

Get our resource, The Ins and Outs of Pharmacy Inventory, for more strategies on handling returns and recalls.

Key References

  • NACDS. Understanding the Drivers of Expired Pharmaceutical Returns. May 2009. https://www.nacds.org/pdfs/membership/understanding_drivers (Accessed November 16, 2023).
  • British Columbia Pharmacy Association. 5 Helpful Tips on Inventory Management. July 16, 2021. https://www.bcpharmacy.ca/tablet/summer-18/5-helpful-tips-inventory-management (Accessed November 16, 2023).
  • Datarithm. They Don’t Teach This in Pharmacy School. Chapter 1 Part 4: Understanding the Financial Impact of Inventory Management on a Pharmacy. September 1, 2021. https://www.datarithm.co/blog/financial-impact-of-inventory-management (Accessed November 16, 2023).
Pharmacy Technician's Letter. December 2023, No. 391209

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