Is This Medication Still Safe?
More than 130 million Americans use at least one prescription drug. Over time, medication can go unused, well past the expiry date. Using expired medication has always been a topic of debate. Does medication expire and are these drugs still safe? Should patients throw old meds away? These questions arise because many medications are expensive. Replacing even rarely used medications can add up. Should patients use expired drugs or not?
First, does medicine expire?
Just like food, medication by law has to have an expiration date on the packaging. However, for many drugs, the expiration date doesn’t necessarily reflect when the product expires. Of course, there are exceptions because some can change while in storage, impacting the effectiveness. Some antibiotics and liquid medications are common examples. While some tablet or capsule forms can be safe to use a few months after the expiration date, consumption is ill advised secondary to temperature and storage conditions.
Pharmacists do not recommend using medicine past the expiration date. Holding on to unused, expired drugs may promote drug misuse and abuse. With over 18 million cases a year, this dangerous practice is growing at an alarming rate. Start by reading the label to see if the manufacturer has provided specific disposal instructions. Otherwise, the best way to safely dispose of expired or unused medication is through a local drug take-back site. If none exist nearby, flush the medication or use a garbage disposal. Another option is to mix with a substance like dirt or coffee grounds, then toss the pills in the garbage. Protect others from possible addition by properly disposing of all pain-relieving medications.
Let’s talk about storage
The correct storage of medications assists in extending the drug’s potency. Storing medicines in a cool, dry place like a kitchen cabinet or medicine chest are good options. When keeping drugs, avoid damp and moist places, direct sunlight, stoves, and heating appliances. In many cases, there are exceptions like refrigeration. Primarily, keep medication inaccessible to children and pets. The packages have instructions for proper storage.
When in doubt, toss expired medication
Expiration dates exist for a reason. In many instances, expired medicine may not be safe or as effective as freshly prescribed medication. Health is too important to leave to chance, even if the prescription is expensive. Furthermore, patients should want drugs to work effectively for the best results. Follow disposal instructions along with the recommendations of a pharmacist in the name of health and safety.