Whether prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter, medications treat what ails us.
We all have our favorites. We know what works for us and what to avoid because of certain side effects.
We put our trust in pills, liquid medications, ointments and other medications to stop pain. But what about using medicine after the expiration date?
On a few occasions, I've taken expired cold medicines and hoped for the best. After all, whatever potency was left in the medicine was sure to aid me in getting rid of a stuffy nose or quiet a cough, I thought. So what's the big deal.
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
The big deal is only some drugs are OK to use after the expiration date and experts can't even agree on that. A Food and Drug Administration program that tests drugs for the military reports that 88 percent of tested medicines are potent for a year after the expiration date. Its conclusion was medications such as aspirin could be safe and effective past the date.
Opponents of the report point out how results from the FDA could be flawed because the military stores its drugs in ideal conditions. Consumers who store drugs in a bathroom medicine cabinet at home are doing their drugs a disservice. Who knew?
Drugs should be stored in a cool, dry place. Cotton balls placed in medicine containers are supposed to absorb moisture, but the amount of moisture in bathrooms from hot showers could still cause a drug to deteriorate.
Antibiotics fall into another category. They should never be used after the expiration date, especially in liquid form. These medicines used to fight bacterial infections lose potency quickly. It's just as important to finish taking antibiotics as well. If you're supposed to take it for 10 days, don't opt out after five days just because you're feeling better.
Something else to consider is whether an expired drug could interact with other medications. An expired drug prescribed two years ago may adversely interact with a drug recently prescribed.
The debate on taking expired drugs is a heated one and will probably continue for years.
Testing all drugs for a longer life span costs money, and neither the government nor drug makers want to foot the bill. Yet, that would be the best course of action to aid consumers, especially those on fixed incomes. They could keep $200 worth of medicine that still works instead of throwing it away and buying more.