When drugs get old: To keep or to trash?

By jholmes800 · Dec 26, 2006 · ·
  1. jholmes800
    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.
    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.


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  1. darawk
    I'd be more interested in knowing what the deterioration products are. I mean they make it sound like the worst case is a loss of potency - but what if it deteriorates into something toxic?
  2. sciencedj
    Swim is sure some drugs degrade over time and are not good past their expiration dates. However...A lot of the expired drugs SWIM has used have worked very well years past their expiration date. All of these drugs were in pill form and stored in a cool, dry, dark place. SWIM is sure liquid products are not as stable and may not be useful once expired. The doctor SWIM uses also say's that most non-liquid drugs are good well past their expiration date (expired for more than one year).

    SWIM has used the following types of expired drugs without any noticeable loss in potency or effectiveness (when stored correctly):


    SWIM is not stating that changes did not occur to these substances, but SWIM can state that no difference of potency or effectiveness were noted.
  3. Riconoen {UGC}
    swim used year old vicodin once and noticed nothing different.

    swim thinks you should keep your expired phsycoactive medicines, becuase swiy'll never know when he might need it.
  4. AntiAimer
    Well, everyone could send all there expired meds to Smurf. He will take them off your hands. He's nice like that, then no one has to worry about takeing bad drugs. He has taken meds that were expired for 5+ years, with no notices. So who knows, Smurf thinks it's possible for the chemicals inside the pill to break down. But only with many many many years, maybe even other chemicals?

    Expired or not, why waste it.
  5. Nostradamus
    What happens to poison when it expires? Does it become healthy?
  6. Nagognog2
    Maybe it does. But it's difficult to find people who will verify this.
  7. pankreeas
    If Bush starts doing charity work after his term as president, you'll have your answer
  8. Nostradamus
    I've been a guinea pig in my day...but I don't need to know that much.
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