Just like many other things with expiration dates, medications can lose their potency or effectiveness over time. Some can even become harmful if left too long before consumption. More often, though, the active ingredient in the medicine will become ineffective if used after the expiration date.
Citing an article from Psychopharmacology Today, the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide provides some insight into whether a given medication’s expiration date has any significance. Military surplus of expired drugs, and repurchasing of massive quantities in response, resulted in an FDA inquiry and the following research findings: 90% + of more than 100 over-the-counter and prescription drugs maintained their potency and were deemed safe to use even 15 years post expiration date. Medical professionals concur that aside for tetracycline, nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, drug’s expiration dates appears to have little implication. It is recommended that drugs are kept in a cool place where their shelf life will maintain for years. Despite somewhat conclusive research and support from medical professionals, a 1979 law mandated that drug manufacturers provide an expiration date in order to guarantee the full effect and safety of the drug. The question is WHY? Although it’s easy to presume that pharmaceutical companies whose lobbying influences appear without a ceiling simply took out an insurance policy on their profits, making consumers restock their medicine cabinets more regularly, there is another explanation. With an extended expiration date or without one at all, pharmaceutical companies are less able to bring the latest in “drug technology” to those who aren’t eager to replace a perfectly good bottle of Aspirin, for example. Furthermore, when alleging 100% satisfaction guarantee, pharmaceutical companies want to avoid dancing with “good enough” or “almost as potent as at purchase date” standards.
When faced with an expiration date dilemma, the choice is yours. It is always recommended to consult a pharmacist or a medical professional on a case-by-case basis.
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