How long are medications good for after they expire?

Folks, we get asked this question all the time:

“I found this medication in the cabinet, but it says it expired last year; can I still use it?

This is a rather grey area. There is no testing for medications to see how safe and affective they are after they “expire”.

Let us  look at the expiration that some of US place on the label. Recommendations have been made to have an expiration date of one year(or when the drug expires if sooner than one year) on prescription labels to give an extra layer of protection for the patient. When medications are not in optimal surrounding (temperature, increased moisture…),they might start degrading faster then whats stated on the bottle. Also, this leads medications to be vulnerable to contamination.

According to drug companies, the date of expiration is the date that they can guarantee effectiveness until. When getting drugs to market, drug companies are mandated to provide evidence that their drug is stable for at least three years. If you were the drug companies, and your already spending a gazilion dollars, would you spend MORE money to see the stability past what’s requires?!? I think not!

Although there are studies that state there are drugs that retain their effectiveness, even after 30 years of their expiration dates, and pharmacies and drug companies are loosing millions by throwing out potentially “still-good” drugs, they are other drugs such as epinephrine, injectables, nitroglycerin, inhalers… that do have reduction in potency.

You know that thing when you try to explain something to a customer and they get more confused? Please don’t go down that path, and just say no.

“I found this medication the cabinet, but it says it expired last year; can I still use it?

“no, please throw away your medications when the label states it’s expired”

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