Some Facts About Expiration Dates Of Drugs: Must Read
Many people have doubts regarding the expiry dates of drugs. They want to know if they can take the medications even after the drug has expired. Are there any such medicines which absolutely cannot be taken after the expiration date? Patients have these doubts as often drugs are costly and it would mean more expense to buy new ones.
What exactly is a drug expiration date? It essentially indicates the last day that the manufacturer of the drug guarantees the efficacy and safety of the drug to the fullest. All medications will have an expiry date on them and this mandated by the law. Due to this reason manufacturers will expressly forbid consuming the drug after the expiration date.
How is the expiration date determined? Usually this is determined by testing the drug for stability with the right manufacturing practices as issued by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) normally medicines manufactured in the USA can have a validity of 1 to 5 years.
But still sometimes you will notice that there will also be a beyond use date on some bottles. This is because the drug safety cannot be guaranteed once the container is opened. But when unopened this beyond use date may apply.
Does this mean that expired medications are not that potent? Studies show that the actual shelf life of many drugs is more than the specified expiration date. But it is really difficult to quantify this to consumers. Plus, the shelf life of the drug will depend on the composition, the way they are stored, exposure to light and humidity among other factors and determining this for each one is difficult. That is why pharmaceutical companies err on the safer side.
Is it okay to consume drugs that are expired? While there is specific data linking expired drugs to human toxicity, it is a risk that is best avoided. Studies show that solid forms of medicine like capsules and tablets seem more stable even after expiry. But this is again dependent on many factors. One also has to take into account the loss of the potency of the drug. Drugs that are to be injected or preserved in a solution cannot be used after expiry. Likewise EpiPen injectors also should not be used after expiry as potency is lost. Medicines that have preservatives like eye drops are also not to be used after expiry. Insulin is known to become less potent after expiry. The same way oral nitroglycerin used for heart pain also loses potency when the bottle is opened. It is advisable to not use ointments etc if the smell or look has changed. It has been observed that proper storage is required of medicines to retain their potency.
What is the conclusion? In cases where the patient has to take the medication but is unable to get a new one that is not expired, then one could take an expired medication with proper advice from a doctor. Plus one should make an evaluation based on the above given factors. Medications related to allergy and other such conditions are required to be replaced once they are past the expiration date.
If you notice that on taking a medication that is expired, there is an adverse reaction or there is no effect, then do consult a doctor for the adverse reaction and replace the drug. In case the medication in question is a product that is biologic like EpiPen, Insulin, or something that needs to refrigerated, do keep an eye on any discoloration or cloudiness and immediately replace the medication.