8 Facts about Expired Medications – April, 2017
Yes, it’s fine to take medications long after their expiration date, especially if they’ve been stored properly. That date is only for legal liability purposes.
Many medications are very expensive and people hate to waste them. To avoid a costly visit to the doctor for a new prescription, many people have to consume expired drugs.
Physicians and pharmaceutical companies, because of legal restrictions and liability concerns, will not sanction such use and may not even comment on the safety or effectiveness of using their products beyond the date on the label.
1. What does Expiration Date mean?
The expiration date, required by law in the United States, beginning in 1979, indicated the date the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug.
At the time of the medication expiry date, the drug must be at least 90% of the original potency under proper storage conditions.
The expiration date does NOT indicate a point when a medication loses potency and is no longer effective or becomes harmful.
In general, drugs expiration date is 2-5 years from production date. FDA regulations do not require manufacturers to determine actual long-term drug potency and stability. For example, if a company chooses a three year expiration date, it does not have to test beyond that for prolonged effectiveness.
2. Potency and Efficacy.
Medication’s potency gradually decreases starting from the moment of it’s manufacture. This process is not in anyway spontaneous after the expiry date.
The expiration date is only an assurance that the labeled potency will last at least until that date
The best evidence of acceptable potency of the medications beyond their expiration date is provided by the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP) undertaken by the FDA for the Department of Defense.
The aim of the SLEP program was to reduce medication costs for the military. SLEP has found that 88% of 122 different drugs stored under ideal conditions should have their expiration dates extended more than 1 year, with an average extension of 66 months, and a maximum extension of 278 months.
Recently researchers investigated samples of 8 medications that had expired 28 to 40 years earlier and contained 15 different active ingredients in all.
The active ingredients tested for were: aspirin, amphetamine, phenacetin, methaqualone, codeine, butalbital, caffeine, phenobarbital, meprobamate, pentobarbital, secobarbital, hydrocodone, chlorpheniramine, and acetaminophen.
The results showed that 11 (79%) of the 14 drug compounds were always present in concentrations of at least 90% of the amount indicated on the drug label, which is generally recognized as the minimum acceptable potency.
3. Safety and Toxicity.
Contrary to common belief, there is little scientific evidence that expired drugs are toxic.
There are virtually no reports of toxicity from degradation products of outdated drugs.