Medication Expiration Dates Not So Relevant

I was reading a post over at Freebies4Mom (a great source of frugal info!) about cleaning out your medicine cabinet. As part of the continuing war on clutter she recommended tossing expired medications.

While I do agree that the Tylenol capsules from 1986 should be tossed, not all expired medications really need to be.

Drug manufacturers are required to stamp an expiration date on their products, but it’s not the date they suddenly become toxic. It is the date at which the manufacturer can still guarantee the full potency and safety of the drug.

Many expired medicines are fine to use. Any decrease in efficacy is minimal, and it’s not as if they become toxic as they age (though there may be some exceptions). I will use most medicines for up to another year or two after their expiration date. And according to a study done by the FDA at the request of the military 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, is it a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to force us to buy medicines over and over again unnecessarily? Perhaps. At the very least I’m sure it’s why they don’t fight the FDA to allow tiered dates (100% potency for year 1, 92% for year 2, 88% for year 3, for example).

But I prefer to think that the dates are conservative to ensure that we are getting what we paid for, and getting the most potent formulations to take care of our ills and aches.

On the other hand, I would be willing to sacrifice 10% of potency for a 50% discount for many drugs. Wouldn’t you? Okay, Viagra users. I’m asking everyone but you…

Of course I’m not advising you, as I’m not a doctor or a pharmacist. You really should rely on them for advice. I’m just a girl on the web who has an opinion on everything.

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4 Responses to “Medication Expiration Dates Not So Relevant”

  1. LArry Says:

    I have been in the OTV business for many years. I have said the same thing for many years. This is a government mandated date. Manufacturers do not like thios since it requires them yo tsake back from retialers any expired dates. Blame the government not the manufacturers

  2. Lisa Says:

    Everything has to have a “best by” date, it seems. I’ve even seen them on bottled water.

    But yeah, I don’t go tossing medication as soon as it’s expired either. It’s just the date for which they guarantee potency.

  3. Festival of Frugality 138 – The First Principals | Personal Finance Blog by Money Ning Says:

    […] BeThisWay presents Medication Expiration Dates Not So Relevant […]

  4. PaulaJC Says:

    I worked in patient services for a Dr’s office many years ago. The nurse on staff told me this! Imagine how much good meds get tossed. Many are safe from six months to a year after the date but they arent allowed to sell or use them in the office etc beyond the dates. So the nurse gave some to me instead of tossing….


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