Most Medications Still Good After Expiration

December 13, 2010 at 2:00 am 2 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

If you check your medicine cabinet, chances are good you’ve got some expired medication in there. Are they still safe and effective or are they fit for the trash?

First of all, this post is for information purposes only and it is not suggesting you take any drugs after their expiration date — always check with your doctor or pharmacist before making any decisions about pharmaceuticals.

The Federal Drug Administration regulates drugs in the United States. They have extensively studied drug expiration dates for the US government. Specifically, the US military stockpiles large quantities of drugs for regular troop usage and emergencies. If those drugs are not used, the cost to replace them can be high.

The FDA found that 88% of drugs tested remained potent for a year after their expiry date;  some lasted up to 14 years. Experts caution these results cannot be directly translated to your medication since the military stores their drugs in climate controlled environments that represents ideal conditions.

That said, the FDA and many in the drug industry, including one pharmacist I talked to off the record, agreed that certain drugs are still good up to a year after the expiration date.

Many popular drugs are safe after their expiration date, but there are known exceptions too. For example, Tetracycline, an antibiotic, becomes toxic and should not be taken after its expiration date. Aspirin, on the other hand, is known to be good for a while after its expiration date.

If the drugs are still good, why do drug companies put these short expiry dates on the bottles? It’s hard to say for sure, but there are a couple things we know.

1. The drug companies are required to ensure their products are 100% effective up to the expiration date. That means they need to do testing. The longer the expiration time they shoot for, the longer it will take to release a new product to market, which is bad for business and customers. In most cases, the products have at least a 1 year shelf life.

2. Every company wants you to buy as much of their product as possible. The drug companies can’t really control how much you use their product, but shorter expiration dates may convince you to buy more, even if you haven’t used all of the product yet.

To be safe, you should check with a pharmacist before taking any expired drugs. When you are ready to dispose of your medicine, check out this previous post: How to Dispose of Medicine.

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Sources: red orbitmedscape

Entry filed under: Around The House, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Laura  |  December 13, 2010 at 6:40 am

    My dad and sister are pharmacists so I can definitely attest to the accuracy of this post. My dad works in a hospital pharmacy, so they’re pretty strict about disposing of things as they expire (including non-medication things that you wouldn’t typically expect to have an expiration date, like scalpels, sutures, rubber gloves, needles, etc.). Though he understands WHY this must be done, he hates that it’s so wasteful, since most of it is still good. Sometimes he will bring home whatever it is to avoid wasting it.

    Reply
  • 2. Max  |  December 13, 2010 at 7:49 am

    You can tell when aspirin has lost effectiveness by smelling it. As aspirin breaks down, it begins to smell like vinegar.

    Reply

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