Medicines To Watch Out For
You need to be particularly careful with certain medicines for life-threatening conditions like:
- EpiPen® for the treatment of severe allergic reaction
- glyceryl trinitrate or GTN for angina and chest pain
- insulin for diabetes
Eye drops are another special case. They can become contaminated with bacteria. A general rule is to never use eye drops after the expiry date, and to throw them out 28 days after youve opened them, even if it is before the expiry date.
Heres What To Do With Expired Cold And Flu Medications
You might be tempted to stock up on cold and flu medication, so you and your family are prepared the next time you get sick. But dont overdo itthese medicines dont last forever.
Erdos said, Just like its best to toss out food when it is past the expiration date, its best to discard medications when they have expired. Throwing away expired medication in your household trash isnt always safeso be sure to dispose of it properly.
How To Store Medications To Ensure Their Effectiveness And Longevity
Heat and moisture are the biggest factors that affect the breakdown of medications. Both prescription and OTC medications should be stored in a cool, dry location such as a kitchen cabinet, dresser drawer, closet shelf, or storage box unless otherwise instructed on the labeling. This will help your medications remain safe and effective up until their expiration date.
You should avoid storing your medications in a damp bathroom cabinet because they could break down faster than usual in the high-moisture, high-temperature environment. If a potential storage location is near a hot appliance, like an oven, it may be best to find a new spot farther away from heat sources. Medications stored in common areas of your home should be secured so they are not easily accessible, especially if you have children or pets.
Its important to note that some medications have different storage requirements. For example, some oral liquid antibiotics and insulins may need to be stored in the refrigerator. Read the labeling on your medication carefully for storage instructions, and contact your pharmacist if youre unsure.
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Is It Safe To Take Expired Medications
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends never taking drugs beyond their expiration date as it is risky with many unknown variables. For example, how your drug is stored before you receive it, chemical make-up, and original manufacturing date can all affect potency of a drug.
In 1963, a report was published that tied degraded tetracycline use with a form of renal tubular damage known as “Fanconi Syndrome” however, that formulation of tetracycline in no longer marketed in the U.S.1, 11, and many medical experts question the results of this case report.
Solid dosage forms, such as tablets and capsules, appear to be most stable past their expiration date. Drugs that exist in solution or as a reconstituted suspension, and that require refrigeration , may not have the required potency if used when outdated. Loss of potency can be a major health concern, especially when treating an infection with an antibiotic. Additionally, antibiotic resistance may occur with sub-potent medications.
Drugs that exist in solution, especially injectable drugs, should be discarded if the product forms a precipitant or looks cloudy or discolored.1
Liquid drugs such as eye or ear solutions, oral liquids, or topical solutions may undergo evaporation of solvents over time.11
Expired medications that contain preservatives, such as ophthalmic drops, may be unsafe past their expiration date.1 Outdated preservatives may allow bacterial growth in the solution.
Why You Shouldnt Take Expired Medication
There are other safety concerns attached to using expired medication. According to the FDA, certain medications are made without additional preservatives. These meds are more at risk for bacterial growth, which can often be unseen or undetected until after the medication has been administered.
Having expired medications sitting around the house can also lead to them being accidentally ingested by a child, household pet, or in some cases, both at once. Thus, its important to properly dispose of these medications.
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Is Expired Medicine Safe To Take
It happens to everybodyyou have a headache or feel sick, and you head to the medicine cabinet to get something to help. But once you get there and pull out that prescription drug or over-the-counter medication, you see the expiration date has flown by. So what do you do? Take it or throw it away? Its a judgment call that, depending on the medication, could have serious consequences.
How To Dispose Of Medications Properly
Its important to properly dispose of medications because drugs found in the trash can be abused.
Official drug take-back programs allow you to give expired medications to a clinic, pharmacy or law enforcement facility usually a police station or fire station.
If a take-back location isnt available, the FDA has a list on its website of medications that are flushable and nonflushable.
Nonflushable medications should be sealed whole, not crushed, in a bag filled with cat litter, used coffee grounds or dirt. This contaminates the medication and makes it undesirable or unusable for people who may abuse them.
Flushable medications on the FDAs flush list include drugs that contain opioids like Demerol, BUTRANS, and morphine. Opioids are highly addictive and can lead to overdose and other dangerous side effects. Its important to get rid of these drugs right away after use so they don’t reach adults or children.
The FDA also recommends that patients scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of the empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging before throwing those away.
You may question the disposal of these drugs and their impact on the environment, but the FDA says these medicines present very little risk to the environment.
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Dont Give Cough And Cold Medications To Infants Or Young Children
Although over-the-counter medication for colds and flu are popular, that doesnt mean they work, especially for children. In January 2008, the Food and Drug Administration advised parents that OTC cough and cold medications should not be given to children under the age of two because of the potential risks. Following this announcement, manufacturers of these products changed their warning labels to say they should not be given to children under age four.
Both decisions were the result of criticisms by influential doctors and medical associations, protesting the marketing and widespread use of OTC pediatric cough and cold medications for young children under the age of six. However, when experts had previously been asked by the FDA to provide advice about these medications, the experts had concluded that there was no good evidence that these medications work for children under the age of 12.
We agree with the doctors and medical associations that asked that the FDA require studies of the effects and safety of these medications in young children a public education campaign to inform parents of the lack of evidence for use of OTC cough and cold medications in young children and labeling to make it clear to consumers that these products have not been found safe or effective in young children.
Can You Take Expired Medications
If your prescription medication has expired, dont use it, toss it safely. Expired drugs lose their effectiveness, can chemically change and even cause unexpected side effects.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1979 began requiring drug manufacturers to list an expiration date on medications. Those dates reflect the medications strength, quality and purity when stored according to directions.
You should never use a medication past its expiration date. But some drugs, like insulin, are particularly important to dispose of after their expiration date to guarantee effectiveness and safety.
Consider two main factors to consider before taking an expired medication:
Effectiveness: Some medications are not as effective after their expiration date. This means that if someone takes the medicine after the expiration date, they wont be getting the proper medication they need to stabilize their condition. For example, antibiotics used past their expiration date can fail to treat an infection, potentially leading to additional complications as the infection spreads in the body.
Safety: Other expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth. This can cause infection, irritation and other potentially harmful side effects.
An FDA study determined that drugs like liquid antibiotics, aspirin, nitroglycerin and insulin are among the drugs found to have deteriorated past their expiration date. Once a drug has expired, you should dispose of it properly.
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Don’t Keep Kids’ Meds
“Because children are smaller and their metabolic systems aren’t fully developed, I wouldn’t hang on to kids’ meds past the expiration dates,” says Dr. Langevin. “Plus, a lot of medications for children are prepared in suspensions so the kids will take them, and those flavored liquids can decompose and acquire bacterial growth.”
Use Ibuprofen Within 4 To 5 Years Of Opening
Ibuprofen in tablet form, which brands including Advil sell, is at its most potent within four to five years of opening, but it’s safe to consume for many years after.
Dr. Kim Langdon, a clinical adviser at digital-health startup Medzino, told INSIDER that liquid suspensions of ibuprofen are “more susceptible to contamination” and that they should be refrigerated. “The expiration dates are somewhat arbitrary and required by regulations, but the most significant risk is that they lose effectiveness over time rather than a safety issue,” Langdon said.
Store liquid and tablet ibuprofen in a cool, dry space away from sunlight.
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Expert Q& a: What To Do When Drugs Expire
You reach into the medicine cabinet for a cold medicine and find an expired over-the-counter remedy or some leftover antibiotics. Now what? You need to know how safety and effectiveness might change for medications that are past their expiration date. John Whyte, MD, MPH, director of professional affairs and stakeholder engagement at the FDA, explains.
Is it safe to take drugs that are past the expiration date?
Generally, there’s no guarantee they are safe or will even work. The chemical makeup of drugs can break down over time and they can lose potency and stability. Many people store medications in the bathroom steam from the shower or changes in temperature can alter how drugs may affect your body. Be sure to note the expiration dates on all medications, OTC and prescription. And note that once you open a medication, the expiration date is 1 year.
Can I flush unused drugs down the toilet?
You don’t want to keep unneeded drugs around, especially if you have young children or pets. Some can be especially dangerous or fatal with just one dose. Look for a drug take-back program in your area. If one is not available, check the FDA recommended medicine flush list … to see if the medication is a potential safety risk. If not, then it’s safe to flush it. Otherwise, most other medications can be mixed with kitty litter or coffee grounds and tossed into the trash.
Given concerns about antibiotic resistance, can I stop taking them if I start to feel better?
Is It Ok To Take Expired Drugs
This article was published more than 9 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.
The question: I took an expired Tylenol for a headache last night and now I’m worried about the potential side effects? Should I be worried?
The answer: It’s frustrating when you reach into your medicine cabinet for help relieving your headache, pain or fever, and you’re either out of medication or it’s expired.
It’s not uncommon to accidentally ingest expired medication, but not to fear: In general, most of them are not toxic when expired, but they can lose their effectiveness over time. So, in all likelihood, you haven’t done yourself harm but you may not be getting the pain relief you were looking for.
Expiry dates are determined and marked on each bottle by the drug maker. When the drug is made, the time it takes to break down is determined. Drug makers guarantee that if their product is used within the shelf life, it will work to its maximum potency and safety.
This being said, even when medication passes its shelf life, it remains partially effective but quantifying when and how fast the potency decreases is difficult.
The bottom line: Expiry dates are a conservative measure to make sure you’re using medication of the highest potency possible. When you’re unwell and all you want to do is feel better quickly, taking something that you know will work is key, instead of worrying whether it’s still good or not.
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In Most Cases The Expiration Date On Medication Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does
The expiration date on the packaging of OTC and prescription drugs doesn’t necessarily reflect when the product expires.
“The vast majority of medications maintain most of their potency years after the posted expiration date. That date is the date after which full potency cannot be guaranteed by the manufacturer,” emergency-medicine specialist Dr. Jack Springer told INSIDER.
Studies conducted by independent researchers and the Food and Drug Administration have found that common drugs retain nearly all their potency many years after the posted expiration date.
“The expiration date doesn’t really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use,” Springer said. “Medical authorities state if expired medicine is safe to take, even those that expired years ago.”
There are exceptions some medications and drug types undergo changes during extended storage that can compromise their safety or effectiveness. Liquid medications and some antibiotics are among these.
Keeping in mind that most OTC medications in tablet or capsule form are safe to use for many years after their expiration date, here are some guidelines on how to manage the drugs in your medicine cabinet.
Use Cough Syrup By The Expiration Date On The Package
As a liquid medication, cough syrup breaks down more quickly and doesn’t stand up as well as dry medication to long-term storage.
“Store cough syrup in the refrigerator if you want to prolong the effectiveness and taste. The risk of contamination is based on the number of openings and time,” Langdon said.
To keep your cough syrup from being contaminated, never drink directly from the bottle and don’t insert any objects into the bottle unless a physician tells you to.
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What To Do If You’ve Been Taking Expired Medicines
If you discover that you have been taking expired medication, talk to your pharmacist or your doctor. You might need to get a fresh, fully active batch.
It’s a good idea to check all of your medicines regularly and get rid of any that are out of date or that you no longer need. Take the unwanted medicines to your pharmacy for safe disposal flushing them down the toilet or putting them in the rubbish can harm the environment.
You can find out more about disposing of expired medicines on the Return Unwanted Medicines website.
Can You Take Medicine After The Expiration Date
According to an advanced practice nurse, the answer really depends.
Most of us have several over-the-counter and prescription medicines stored for safe keeping in our bathroom cabinets: prescribed pills from previous injuries and hospital stays, tablets of allergy relief medicine and decongestants, and bottles of aspirin we’ve brought home after getting an unexpected headache at work. Those medications have expiration dates stamped on them, but how important are they? Is it ever safe to take a pain pill that has an expiration date of a week, a month, or even a year ago?
Pharmaceutical expiration dates are not like the expiration dates you will find on fresh vegetables, meats, or dairy products. Unlike perishable foods, many medications do not spoil or “go bad” in the sense that we usually think of when we talk about expiration dates. When it comes to majority of your medications, the expiration is only the last date that the pharmaceutical company can guarantee its potency. “So, they never really recommend taking medicines after expiration dates,” says Kari Sierant, an advanced practice nurse based in New Jersey. “They want to make sure that you get the full potency and safe medication, and that is why they make expiration dates.”
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What Other Medications Do You Use
If you take other medications or have health conditions, talk to a pharmacist or doctor about possible interactions. Keep in mind that its not just prescription medications that can cause interactions. You need to be careful with herbal supplements and over-the-counter medicines as well. Another product might be a better choice based on your other medications, age and other health conditions.
Children and seniors can be especially prone to side effects. And people with high blood pressure, diabetes or other health conditions may need to avoid certain medications. Dr. Erdos said, Not all medications play nice together!
What To Do With Expired Meds
First, read the medicines label and follow any specific disposal instructions that may be included. A drug take-back program, if available, is the preferred way to dispose of expired, unwanted, or unused medicine. For example, the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, coordinated by the DEA, addresses a vital public safety and public health issue by focusing attention on this important issue and reminding everyone to get rid of unneeded and outdated medicines. Through this important program many tons of unneeded and out-date drugs have been removed for proper disposal.
When drug take-back programs arent available, federal guidelines recommend throwing the medicines away in the household trash after mixing them with a substance like dirt or kitty litter and then sealing the mixture in a container . However, certain medicines are specifically recommended for flushing down a toilet or sink because they could be especially harmful, even fatal, to a child, pet, or anyone else if taken accidentally. For a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing, as well as other information on proper disposal, please see the Disposal of Unused Medicines page.
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