Friday, July 19, 2019
Home > Lifestyle > Is it Dangerous to Take Expired Drugs?

Is it Dangerous to Take Expired Drugs?

Since 1979,US federal law has made it mandatory for drug manufacturers

to place an expiration date on both prescription and over-the-counter

medications. This date, generally two to three years from the date of

purchase, signals the length of time the product can be guaranteed to

maintain full potency and safety in an unopened package. Does this

mean that medications lose their effectiveness or worse yet, become

dangerous after the expiration date?

Definitely not, say most health experts. In a 1985 study conducted by

the FDA at the Air Force's request, more than 100 medications, both

prescription and OTC, maintained full potency for at least three

years, and sometimes even longer. The military commissioned the study

because it was debating how to handle a large stockpile of drugs that

were to expire shortly. And tossing out the drugs was an expensive

prospect. As a result of the study, the military continues to use

certain medications for a period of time after the expiration date.

Why, then, does consumer health information stress the importance of

tossing medications after the expiration date?

According to the pharmaceutical industry, this is because there are

certain medications, such as nitroglycerine (used by heart patients

for chest pain), insulin (used by diabetics to control blood sugar),

and liquid medications such as antibiotics that degrade more quickly

than other medications. This means that some of the effectiveness of

the medication is lost if used past the expiration date – a serious

risk for someone with heart disease, diabetes, or a serious infection.

And while much of the original potency remains in other medications if

used beyond their expiration date, their effectiveness depends in

large part upon how the medication is stored. Most people store drugs

under less than ideal conditions. Drugs degrade more quickly under

warm, moist conditions – exactly the condition found in the medicine

cabinet, on a window ledge, or in the cupboard above the stove.

The bottom line? Nothing magical happens the day after a medication's

expiration date; the drug neither loses all of its potency nor becomes

toxic to use. But to assure maximum efficacy, you should use most

medications before the expiration date. And for best shelf life, store

all medications in a cool, dry place.

Leave a Reply