View Full Version : How Long Do Medications Last?

02-23-2011, 06:19 AM
I received this (http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/prescription_drugs/JohnsHopkinsPrescriptionDrugsHealthAlert_3017-1.html?ET=johnshopkins:e44626:1128208a:&st=email&s=EKH_110222_001) newsletter from JHU today, regarding medication expiration dates. I thought it was very interesting--totally news to me!

I'm copying it here in case the link expires someday.

Think of expiration dates -- which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires be placed on most prescription and over-the-counter medications -- as a very conservative guide to longevity. The expiration date is a guarantee from the manufacturer that a medication will remain chemically stable -- and thus maintain its full potency and safety -- prior to that date. Most medications, though, retain their potency well beyond the expiration date, and outdated medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, are not usually harmful.

In a study conducted by the FDA on a large stockpile of medications purchased by the military, 90% of more than 100 medications were safe and effective to use years after the expiration date. The drugs in the FDA study, however, were stored under ideal conditions -- not in a bathroom medicine cabinet, where heat and humidity can cause drugs to degrade.

If your medications have been stored under good conditions, they should retain all or much of their potency for at least one to two years following their expiration date, even after the container is opened. But you should discard any pills that have become discolored, turned powdery, or smell strong; any liquids that appear cloudy or filmy; or any tubes of cream that are hardened or cracked.

To help maintain potency, store your medications in a closet or cabinet located in a cool, dry room. Also, don’t mix medications in one container: chemicals from different medications can interact to interfere with potency or cause harmful side effects. If two or more medications have been mingled for any period of time, discard them.

A few medications, like insulin and some liquid antibiotics, do degrade quickly and should be used by the expiration date. Also, consider replacing any outdated medications that you’re taking for a serious health problem, since its potency is more critical than that of an over-the-counter drug you take for a headache or hay fever. If in doubt, consult a pharmacist.

I bet the pharmaceutical industry would not be happy if a lot of people learned about this.

I just disposed of a number of medications that were past their expiration date, which is a bummer. Well, at least it made me feel pretty good to get rid of them. It was depressing to see a cabinet full of drugs!

02-23-2011, 08:21 AM
Good information Sangye, thanks for sharing!

I hope that truck is easing on down the road....

02-23-2011, 02:05 PM
I saw this on a news article on TV. Its a good thing to share Sangye. Thanks