Is It Still Safe To Take Expired Drugs? 

A woman checks expired medication safety.
Is It Still Safe To Take Expired Drugs? 

You have a splitting headache and you open the medicine cabinet to find that the medicine expired a few months ago. You may wonder if you can safely take the medication even if it is expired. For many people, questions about using medications past the expiry date arise as many medications are expensive and it can prove costly to replace unused but expired medicines. Are you also confused about the safety of using medicines past their expiration dates? Read along to know more.


Meaning Of Medicine Expiration Date 

The expiration date provided on the medicine label is the last day that the manufacturer of the medication guarantees full safety and potency of the medicine. You can find an expiration date on most medicine labels including over-the-counter medicines, prescription medicines, and dietary supplements. It is required by law to add expiration dates on prescription products before marketing them.


For legal and liability-related reasons, manufacturers of medicines, stay away from making recommendations pertaining to the stability of their medications past the expiry date. In the case of most medicines, the expiration date is just an arbitrary date selected by the manufacturer to test the stability of the medicine. Once the container of the medicine is opened after manufacture, the expiration date is no longer guaranteed.


The date of expiration of medicine is estimated by stability testing under manufacturing practices that are determined by the FDA. The expiration date of the medicines sold in the United States range between one to five years from the manufacturing time. After opening the original container of the medicine, the expiration date provided on the label cannot be relied upon. However, stability studies back that the actual shelf life of the medicine is much longer.


Is Taking Expired Drugs Safe? 

The FDA recommends not to take medicines beyond the expiration date. Many variables play a part in the stability of a medicine. For instance, the chemical makeup of the medicine, the way it was stored, the original date of manufacture, etc can all affect the potency of medicine. Solid forms like capsules and tablets are found to be most stable past their expiration date whereas medicines that exist in suspension or solution forms and that need refrigeration may not have the necessary potency after the expiration date.


Loss of potency can be a very big health concern and this can be especially true when using antibiotics to treat an infection. In addition, using sub potent medications can result in antibiotic resistance. Therefore, you should never use medications past their expiry date.