Medications are increasingly becoming expensive and people hate wasting them because of that. To avoid spending money on new prescriptions, some individuals even prefer to consume expired drugs using free pill reminder app. However, due to legal restrictions, many pharmaceutical companies won’t comment on the safety or effectiveness of expired drugs. This leaves patients asking questions like:
- Is it safe to take medications beyond their expiration dates?
- Is there a way to store medications to prevent them from expiring?
- Which medications should never be used once they are expired?
Many patients ask these questions because they have paid hefty costs and replacing medications frequently can deplete their budgets.
What Does an Expiration Date Mean?
The expiration date is the day on which a medication loses its potency. All medications come with labels printed with expiration dates. In fact, the U.S. law confines pharmaceutical companies to place expiration dates on all products before releasing them in the market.
The expiry period for most drugs is usually 2-5 years. The stability of drug may be much longer than that, but manufacturers may not make recommendations about it because of legal and liability reasons.
Remember that once the container is opened, the original expiration date of the medication inside can no longer be trusted. However, the actual shelf life of the medicine may be much longer than the one mentioned on the label.
Are Expired Medications Safe to Use?
Though very limited information is available on this topic, some medication forms such as tablets and capsules tend to stay stable well beyond their expiration date. Liquid drugs, on the other hand, or ones that require refrigeration may lose potency when outdated.
Drugs with lost potency can be very damaging to health, especially when treating a condition with antibiotics. This is because expired medications can produce antibiotic resistance in the body, causing you to feel no improvement in the condition. Therefore, expired solution drugs should be discarded as soon as they start to look cloudy or discolored.
Also, medications that contain preservatives may become unsafe past their expiry and may allow bacterial growth in the solution.
What Drugs Should Never Be Used After Their Expiry?
Some medications can lead to serious consequences for patients after becoming expired. Observing the expiration date is obligatory for the following medications:
- Dilantin, phenobarbital
- Thyroid hormone preparations
- Procan SR
- Oral contraceptives
- Eye drops – eyes are a sensitive organ of our body and any bacteria that might grow because of expired solutions can cause serious damage.
- Expired antibiotics can build up increased antibiotic resistance leading to treatment failure.
- Insulin controls blood sugar in diabetes patients and may lose potency after expiration date.
- Oral nitroglycerin (NTG) is used for angina and may lose potency quickly after the medication container is opened.
- Vaccines can also quickly degrade once the expiration date is reached.
- Powdery, crumbling or dried up medications should be discarded as well after reaching expiry dates.
Proper storage of drugs can preserve their potency. And when we say proper storage, we don’t mean bathroom or kitchen cabinets. These places are not ideal for storing medications because of heat and humidity. Dry and cool places with little to no light are where medications remain most stable. Also, keep your medication bottles tightly closed and away from children and pets.
Moreover, never forget to discard expired medicines as they pose the risk for overdose or theft.
What Factors Determine Whether You Should Take Expired Medications?
- Expired liquids are generally unstable so don’t use them.
- do not use medications that were kept in hot and humid places.
- Medications that are well beyond their expiration.
Also, do not use:
- Tablets that are brittle or breaking apart
- Tablets or capsules that are soft
- Injectables that appear discolored
- Aspirin when it starts giving off strong smells
- Medicine that seems suspicious in any way
Should You Take Expired Medications?
Should patients use expired drugs or not? It’s always best to use nonexpired medications; simply because they are safer. In case medication is necessary for a life-threatening condition such as cancer, it will be best to get a new prescription before the current one expires so that the treatment can be continued without breaks.
However, if a medication has expired and the new one can’t be found, there is no proof that it would be risky to take the expired one. But the patient should know that they may not get the ideal results and may require a new prescription.
In case that expires drug is for a minor ailment such as for headache, fever, or mild pain, it might be safe to take it, although you may not get the full effect and it may not work at all as well. For example, if taking an expired ibuprofen (Advil) does not soothe your headache, it may have lost its potency.
If an expired medication has no effect, it should be replaced immediately. Below are some drugs that are less likely to be safe when expired:
- Eye drops
- Refrigerated liquids
- Medications that appear to be cloudy or has an obnoxious smell.
If you are still unsure about how to handle an expired drug using medication reminder app, our recommendation is to speak with your specialist who can offer expert advice.