Drug Expiration Dates

meds 1Drug expiration dates are virtually meaningless.  All my life I have had people look into my medicine cabinet and laugh at the fact that I have expired drugs in there.  Sometimes the expiration dates go back more than 5 years.  I don’t see any reason to toss these absolutely fine medications simply because the date on the outside of the box/can/bottle says they are not good.  They ARE still good.  The drug expiration date is a farce.

Ok, people will say that the drug loses its potency over time, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  But, in 1976, the FDA of the USA began to require drug companies to put a date on their products “beyond which they could not guarantee the absolute potency and safety of the drug.”  Drug companies placed dates on their drugs based on a study that the FDA performed for the US Army, and many did not do their own studies to develop a more realistic expiration date.  Drug companies went very conservatively on their expiration date for fear of being sued or exposed as having weaker medications.  The truth is, most drugs are fully potent well past their expiration dates.  Many can be used as much as 15 years later without losing any potency at all.  Certainly, there are some that should not be used after the expiration because of safety issues (tetracycline and insulin are two of them), but 90% of drugs are completely safe to take after their expiration date.  (http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update1103a.shtml)

meds 3Whether they’re over-the-counter or prescription, the story is the same.  Drugs can be used past the expiration date.  I have medication in my medicine cabinet now that expired in 2009.  I still use it, and it still works.  Others expired in 2010 or 2011, they still work just as well as the day I bought them.  I think this “conservative” medicine expiration date of a year or 2 is a way that pharmaceutical companies can ensure that they continue to make money.  Most medication does not get completely used before its expiration date.  Let’s face it, that bottle of 90 aspirin that you bought that expires in 2 years might have 30-40 left in it when the expiration date hits.  If drug companies had to wait until medicines were actually completely depleted before people went to buy more, they would lose a lot of sales and make less money.  So it pays for them to place a sooner, rather than later, expiration date on the medication.  Even non-medications like body lotion, hair products and vitamins do not really “expire” when the companies say they do.  They are completely usable years and years after the expiration date.

This drug store has the right idea.

This drug store has the right idea.

It is also legal for drug stores in the United States to sell medicines and pharmaceutical products after the expiration date, but it’s virtually impossible because people believe that the medicines are no good.  Laws favor the drug companies because the drug companies have the deepest pockets and donate a lot of money to the right campaigns during election time.  Don’t be fooled.  Keep your medications as long as you want.  Take them after the expiration date, it won’t hurt you.  There’s no guarantee of full potency, but you won’t be able to tell the difference until many, many years past the date.  Don’t the drug companies make enough money each year without us having to constantly replenish medications that we’re not finished with and that are just as good as the day we bought them?



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