Friday, March 23, 2012

Will using expired drugs kill you?

Earlier this month, Cecil at addressed the question, "Will using expired drugs kill you?" The answer was mostly no.
We have to tread carefully here, ... A few drugs don’t age well — for example, nitroglycerin and insulin. But they’re the exception. Most drugs retain their potency for years after they supposedly expire.
In 1978 the FDA started requiring drug companies to place expiration dates on drugs. But no testing was done. Many picked a one year expiration in the hopes that you would throw away old medicine and buy it again.

No everyone liked this. The Pentagon had $1 billion of stockpiled drugs that it didn’t feel like throwing out so it asked for FDA testing in the mid-80's in a program called Shelf Life Extension. The results?

* one year AFTER expiration, every drug tested was still OK
* 88 percent of the drugs were safe and effective five years after expired

Bottom Line

The Consumer Reports recommends throwing out any drug more than a year past its expiration date. So expiration plus one year with a few exceptions:

* epinephrine, used to treat cardiac arrest, steadily loses its potency over time
* Liquid drugs and suspensions are less stable than solids
* Medications custom-made by your local pharmacy are likely to have a short shelf life
* nitroglycerin
* insulin

If you have not used up a medicine before one year past expiration, did you really need it?

P.S. Please don't dump old medicine in a toilet. Did you know that some public drinking water tests positive for common medications?

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