Health Minute: When to Throw Out Expired Drugs


Using an expired drug is probably okay if you have a minor health issue such as a headache or sinus trouble. If your condition is serious, don’t chance it. Many medicines, especially tablets and capsules, have a shelf life beyond the date on the bottle, experts say.

“The reality is that because these expiration dates are so conservative, probably even 5 to 10 years from the time of the expiration date, a person can still try using their product.”

Manufacturers guarantee their drugs will be safe and fully effective up until the expiration date, which is usually 1 to 5 years after it’s produced.

“But even with medications that are long expired, the amount of effectiveness is usually over 90 percent.”

There are certain medicines, however, that should not be used beyond the expiration date, often because they treat chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes where 100% potency is crucial.

“Nitroglycerin, which quickly loses its effectiveness after you open the bottle, insulin, vaccines, suspension type antibiotics that you have to refrigerate, eye drops that are kept in a preservative bottle.”

To help your meds stand the test of time, store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and in their original containers.

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