When in some urgent need of medicine, your look for them in the drawer and find that the date on the medicine has already expired, you often find yourself with many questions:
Should you take it or not? If you take the medicine, will it be a fatal mistake? Will it cause some reaction? Is it going to work or not?
This is a dilemma many people face in some way or another. A column published in Psychopharmacology Today offers some advice.
It turns out that the expiration date on a drug does stand for something, but probably not what you think it does. Since a law was passed in 1979, drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products. This is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug.
Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.
So the expiration date doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state if expired medicine is safe to take, even those that expired years ago. A rare exception to this may be tetracycline, but the report on this is controversial among researchers. It's true the effectiveness of a drug may decrease over time, but much of the original potency still remains even a decade after the expiration date. Excluding nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, most medications stay good for long. Placing a medication in a cool place, such as a refrigerator, will help a drug remain potent for many years.
So the expiry date is basically the time period to which the drug manufactures take the guarantee of their performance, and thus the drug manufactures try to take this date as less as possible. Beyond the date they just want to avoid their responsibility.
The next time you face the drug expiration date dilemma, consider what you've learned here. If the expiry date passed sometime back and it's very urgent to take the medicine, then most of the medicines will be fine to work. If you have enough time to buy a new one, then you can certainly go ahead.
Sources : Psychopharmacology Today, Harvard Medical School
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