Drug Expiration Dates Are A Scam!
February 18, 2013

Drug Expiration Dates Are A Scam!

Are the expiration dates on the side of your medication a sure indicator that you’ll get sick if you take them, or is it just a scam designed to keep you shelling out your hard earned money? Let’s ask the folks at Harvard, shall we?

We’ve all been here one time or another.

Your fever’s through the roof, the collar of your favorite sleep shirt is stained with sweat rings, and the aches and pains leave you sleepless, so you painfully crawl to the medicine cabinet. After five minutes of crawling and five more of digging, you finally find the aspirin, only to discover it’s expired.

It didn’t expire last week either — try three Christmases ago.

What do you do? Stagger back to bed, grab another blanket, and try and sweat it out like Grandma would’ve told you to? The meds might make you sick; they’re expired after all, and that’s dangerous, right?

If you’re like me, you throw caution to the wind and take the medication anyhow. So what if it makes you sick. It can’t really get any worse than this right?

Correct! (Well, most of the time.)

As explained by The Harvard Medical School, “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.

They go on to explain that drug expiration dates come from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the U.S. military. The military had an enormous, expensive, stockpile of drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, and they faced the disposing and replacement of those drugs every few years. That would come at a high cost, and the funding would’ve come out of our tax dollars. What the FDA found from the study is 90 percent of more than 100 drugs were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.

Basically, the expiration date isn’t when the medication goes bad, per say, it’s when it’s reached it’s limit and is no longer at it’s maximum potency.

“Medical authorities state expired drugs are 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 are as long-lasting as the ones tested by the military.”

So is it a marketing ploy to keep us all restocking our medicine cabinets regularly while the pharmaceutical fat cats vacation in some private island off of the cost of Belize?

Probably not.

If you do feel that way though, take solace in knowing the expiration dates are very conservative to ensure you get every penny’s worth.

Ironically, I actually did this very same thing three weeks ago. I didn’t have the flu symptoms like I mentioned above, but I’ve had skin problems since I was a baby. I have a rash that pops up periodically that requires prescription lotion. Well, wouldn’t you know it, my lotion expired in 2008! Since I didn’t have the time to make a doctors visit, I just used the five year old lotion. It took a few applications to clear up the rash when it usually would’ve only taken one, but it still worked, and I’m just fine.

I may be the exception to the rule, so be careful. Also, do your own research; I’m not a doctor, so don’t try and sue me if something bad happens to you.

Image Credit: Great Divide Photography / Shutterstock

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