Prescription medication often comes with a hefty price tag and a built in bonus on the back end for the pharmaceutical company in the form of an overly aggressive expiration date.
A program called SLEP, the Shelf Life Extension Program, which has been administered by the Food and Drug Administration for the Department of Defense for 20 years has proven that 90% of medications maintain their potency even 15 years later.
Quoted from Medscape:
In light of these results, a former director of the testing program, Francis Flaherty, said he concluded that expiration dates put on by manufacturers typically have no bearing on whether a drug is usable for longer.
Mr. Flaherty noted that a drug maker is required to prove only that a drug is still good on whatever expiration date the company chooses to set. The expiration date doesn’t mean, or even suggest, that the drug will stop being effective after that, nor that it will become harmful.
“Manufacturers put expiration dates on for marketing, rather than scientific, reasons,” said Mr. Flaherty, a pharmacist at the FDA until his retirement in 1999. “It’s not profitable for them to have products on a shelf for 10 years. They want turnover.”
Notable exceptions include insulin, nitroglycerin and antibiotics. Of course, you shouldn’t have any antibiotics laying around since you are supposed to finish the entire batch when you have them prescribed to you.
The bottom line is, if your life depends on an expired drug, and you must have 100% potency, you shouldn’t risk taking it unless you are in an emergency situation with no other alternative. If your life does not depend on an expired drug, for example aspirin, antihistamines, etc., there is almost no chance that it will hurt you. You might just have to increase the dosage a bit to make up for decreased potency.
Since I know this is a very controversial subject I’ve researched it more than usual. However, I’m not a doctor, nor am I advocating that you listen to anything I have to say because I don’t want that one moron out there to uncover some World War II era medicine and kill themselves with it – then blame me!
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