Expiration dating drugs

Also, improvements in drug manufacturing and changes in drug information over time would require repeated "longevity" testing that would be impractical. Better, they say, to pick a shorter period of time for which there is confidence a drug will stay stable and stick with that. That might be acceptable if it weren't for the pharmacist who may reduce the expiration to one year from when the prescription is written!

Do expired medications lose their potency?

Some states require pharmacists to do this. This came from a recommendation from the U.

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Pharmacopeia, a not-for-profit group that establishes standards for drug makers. The logic is that when a drug is taken out of its original container and put in a pharmacy canister, moisture and air can degrade the pills or capsules. In addition, a patient's condition may change, new drugs may become available so that the old drug is no longer the best option , or new information may become available such as potential interactions with other drugs.

What does an expiration date mean?

So, limiting the prescription to a year from when it's originally filled adds an extra level of safety, requiring the doctor to review whether continuing with the old medication beyond one year is still a good idea. Even with the best of intentions, this conservative standard makes it even more likely that enormous amounts of perfectly good medications will be thrown away in this country each year.

We may not save that much. And we don't have the FDA to test and oversee extensions on our medicines' expiration dates. In this case, the potential benefit of saving a life is greater than the potential risk of death by not using it all. There's really no way to know unless drugs are tested, but here are some common sense measures:.

Are drug expiry dates really a myth? – Science-Based Medicine

Proper storage of medications may help to extend their potency. The bathroom and medicine cabinet are not ideal places to store medications due to heat and humidity.

Similarly, medications should not be left in a hot car or glovebox, or in freezing weather. Medications remain most stable in dry, cool spaces away from light. Keep the prescription bottle caps tightly closed and always keep medications out of reach of children and pets. Another important point, especially considering the national opioid epidemic.

Drug Expiration Dates - Are Expired Drugs Still Safe to Take?

Discard unused or expired controlled substances like hydrocodone and acetaminophen Vicodin, Lotab, Norco or oxycodone Oxycontin as soon as possible due to the risk for overdose, theft, or diversion of the medication. Plus, learn about the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day held twice per year in your city as a safe way to dispose of these prescription medications. Should patients use expired medications or not?

It's always best to use medications that are NOT expired; it's just the safest route.


  1. Is it ok to use medications past their expiration dates? - Harvard Health;
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  4. Drug Expiration Dates - Are Expired Drugs Still Safe to Take??

If a medication is essential for a chronic and potentially life-threatening disease, for example, a heart condition, cancer treatment, seizure, or life-threatening allergy, it is probably wise to get a new prescription before it expires and keep up with refills as needed. However, if a medication is needed, and the patient is not able to replace the expired medication, there is no evidence that it is unsafe to take the medication in most cases.

If this is the case, a new prescription is needed. For example, if using ibuprofen Advil or acetaminophen Tylenol that's outdated does not relieve your headache, it may have lost its potency. If an expired medication is taken, and the patient notices the drug has no effect, the medication should be replaced. Some drugs are probably less likely to be safe if they're expired:.

If questions still remain about how to handle an expired medication, it is wise to speak with your pharmacist or physician, who can offer additional information and advice. Drugs Past Their Expiration Date. The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics. Stability profiles of drug products extended beyond labeled expiration dates. J Pharm Sci ; Simons FER, et al.

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J Allergy Clin Immunol ; Expiration Dating Extension, U. Accessed May 29, at https: To reduce the cost to the military of maintaining stockpiles of certain pharmaceuticals, the United States Department of Defense and the Food and Drug Administration operate a joint initiative known as the Shelf Life Protection Program SLEP , which evaluates the long-term effectiveness of medications stockpiled by the DoD and other government agencies.

Under the program, medications are tested for safety and stability for extended periods of time in controlled storage conditions.


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  • In many cases, medications tested were found to be effective for years past their printed expiry dates; a study by the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that two-thirds of medications tested through SLEP remained effective for an average of at least four additional years. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Shelf Life Extension Program. Retrieved 30 March Drug expiration dates - Harvard Health". Retrieved 2 May Handbook of stability testing in pharmaceutical development: Food and Drug Administration.

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