Usually not. You can generally view expiration dates as extremely conservative estimates of when a drug will be less potent and less safe to use. But studies have shown that out of 100 drugs, 90 percent of those drugs were perfectly fine 15 years after the expiration date.
There are exceptions of course, like liquid antibiotics. Please research your specific antibiotic (or ask a question on here) to ensure its safety before taking it after the expiration. But if it’s only a short period of time, you should be fine. If it’s longer, you will usually have no problems either but it’s good to double check first.
With respect to evenier, he’s basing his opinion on a single study. The faults I see in that study, as it pertains to the question are:
A) The conditions under which drugs do not degrade: Dollars-to-donuts, the study examined drugs that had been properly stored for years. Not ones that sat in hot cars, cold garages, and got thrown in with the beach gear.
B) And evenier misses a critical point. The article reads “much of the orginal potency remains”. However “much” is not what you want when dealing with antibiotics. Antibiotics need to be taken regularly, as prescribed, and it’s an extremely bad idea to stop taking them before the doctor said to — because if the problem comes back, it’s going to be even more difficult to treat. When a doctor prescribes an antibiotic, it’s usually intended that you take every last pill. And if you’ve been using pills that are only 95% effective … well then, you haven’t “taken that last pill”.
C) Notice also the article reads 90% of drugs were good. Great! What 10% isn’t safe?
D) What’s not included in this article — and which is completely irresponsible — is that the problem with old drugs is not merely that they become less effective, but that they may change chemical composition. Testing drugs takes a huge amount of effort. But they are testing NEW drugs, not ones that have been damaged by three years in a car’s glove compartment.
Combine a couple unfortunate, but common circumstances, and your old antibiotics might make a fairly good stab at killing you, especially if you are seriously ill.
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