The Dos and Don’ts of Expired Drugs

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If you’ve ever reached for a pain reliever or other medicine and it has an old expiration date, don’t throw it out.

Using an expired drug is probably okay if you have a minor health issue such as a headache or sinus trouble.

If your condition is serious, don’t take any chances.

Many medicines, especially tablets and capsules, have a shelf life beyond the date on the bottle, experts say.

“The reality is that because these expiration dates are so conservative, probably even five to 10 years from the time of the expiration date, a person can still try using their product,” said Dr. Sharon Bergquist, Emory School of Medicine.

Manufacturers guarantee their drugs will be safe and fully effective up until the expiration date, which is usually one to five years after it’s produced.

“But even with medications that are long expired, the amount of effectiveness is usually over 90 percent,” said Dr. Bergquist.

There are certain medicines, however, that should not be used beyond the expiration date, often because they treat chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes where 100 percent potency is crucial.

“Nitroglycerin, which quickly loses its effectiveness after you open the bottle, insulin, vaccines, suspension type antibiotics that you have to refrigerate, eye drops that are kept in a preservative bottle,” said Dr. Bergquist.

To help your medications stand the test of time, store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and in their original containers.
 

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