Take It Or Toss It: Is It Safe To Use Expired Medications?
Category: Drug Information
Health and medicine are a must for people who need to help to treat a complication or easing a symptom. Unfortunately, almost $800 billion dollars is put to waste every year on healthcare. $5 billion (or 3-7%) of that amount gets wasted due to unused or expired medications in the US.
Is such a large waste necessary? Is there a way to reduce the amount of loss? If medicine hidden in our cabinet is past the expiration date, is it still safe to consume? Keep reading to find out the answer.
Debunking the Myths
A majority of drugs, over-the-counter and prescription, have a lot number and expiration. They inform you when and where a drug was made as well as the time the manufacturer guarantees full potency. Taking a drug outside that window will not hold them liable for loss in strength or if you happen to develop side-effects.
You may think manufacturers conduct several tests or experiments to determine this number. More often than not, the set expiration of 1-4 years is nothing more than an arbitrary selection to test the stability.
Most people aren't aware that the moment they open the original container, you can no longer rely on the expiration date provided. Most pharmacies will tell you not to use or discard a drug to inform buyers when a drug is beyond use.
This simple stamp that informs hospitals, pharmacies, and consumers of the expiration is the main reason why drugs are thrown away.
Can You Get Away Using Expired Medications?
There's still merit in the expiration of a drug, although it's not the way most people think. Expiration dates focus on the level of potency rather than just being "bad."
There's good news for those who want to save money or would find it wasteful to toss something they barely used in the trash. You have decent leverage on deciding whether or not you can use a drug and if it will still work.
When Is It Ok?
Most of what is understood on expiration dates are from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who perform tests. Based on the FDA's research, 90% or over 100 drugs are found to be safe to use as long as 15 years past the expiration day.
The only concern lies in the lack of indication in how long is a drug truly safe or good to use. However, most medical authorities agree that most pharmaceutical drugs are fine to take well past the date on the bottle.
This is because the active ingredient in drugs is still as much as 90% effective (which is the minimum potency level accepted). Only a few drugs fell below this range which includes Aspirin, Amphetamine, and Phenacetin (a painkiller).
The chances of how well your product will last also depends on proper storage. It's best to keep all medication in a cool, dark place or in your refrigerator to maintain potency.
Just because a drug has the ability to last beyond the expiration date, it doesn't mean you are told lies or fall for marketing ploys by the manufacturer. The main reason they exist is to provide consumers with a conservative way of ensuring you will get the results and effects you pay for.
When Is It Not Ok?
The FDA required all manufacturers to provide expiration dates in 1979. It is a way to tell consumers the drug may be risky or harmful if they choose to take it. The "out with the old, in with the new" concept has a strong stigma with medication. Yet, it has the right reasons.
There are, in fact, some drugs you shouldn't take if it's past the expiration. This includes a variety of antibiotics such as Tetracycline. The main risk is the rapid bacterial growth that occurs which causes the drug to lose potency.
Instead, those who consume it are more likely to have trouble battling infection which leads to antibiotic resistance. Liquid antibiotics are the most unstable when compared to the pill form. No matter which you take, it's best to use either within the window.
Insulin is also another medication to avoid beyond the expiration date. Diabetics and those who are insulin resistant should always check the date and get another prescription if the medication is no longer good. Nitroglycerin (a heart medication) is another example of a drug not to take.
It may also be a wise idea to toss medication that's old when it is vital to your life or condition. If you decide to use an old drug to take care of a headache or relieve nausea, at worst, you may experience transient GI-related side effects. This is an obvious form of rejection your body will do.
Weighing the Loss in Potency
Other than the medications mentioned earlier that you shouldn't take beyond the expiration, most other drugs are safe. When you want to use a medication to treat a throbbing headache or get rid of nausea, you can do it.
The only concern is the minimum loss in potency which isn't a problem for most people. If full potency is what you desire, get another bottle.
Get Quality Medicine You Need
Medicine that goes through the proper protocols is safe for use. With that, one thing every drug company must follow by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the label is the expiration date. This lets consumers know both safety and potency is guaranteed.
Expired medications may not be fatal in the literal sense, but that "fatality" could be a loss of money by using something of little to no quality. You take a gamble in the probability the drug may not work.
If you run out of a drug you need or need to fill a prescription, you can find quality drugs at competitive prices in the comfort of your own home. Contact us to start an order or complete it online.