With the FDA taking action against unscrupulous sellers, here is what you should know about taking expired medicine:

Many times, people reach for headache or flu pills and discover that they have expired. Still, they take the medicine. But what does it matter? Does the headache go away or continue or is this a fatal mistake? A law was passed in 1979 which requires drug manufacturers to stamp an expiration date on their products. From the date of manufacture to the expiry date, the manufacturer can guarantee the safety and expected effectiveness the drug. But, is the medicine still powerful and safe after the expiry date?

Experts usually agree, even if you have to order new medicine online or visit a pharmacy, it is better than taking a chance!

Does the Potency of Drugs Expire?

A study known as the Shelf Life Extension Program was carried out by the American Food and Drug Administration at the request of the U.S. military. The military had noticed that they were throwing away many drugs every year due to expiry. The study found that 88% of the 122 drugs studied, prescription and non-prescription, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiry date. As a result, the FDA stamped new expiry dates that ranged between 12 months and 184 months (up to 15 years).

What is known now is that most medicines are generally safe and potent even after expiry if they are kept in their original packaging. However, if a medicine is opened for dispensing or consumption, as what happens in pharmacies and hospitals, the storage conditions may accelerate the decline in potency and safety.

Tablets and capsules appear to be most stable beyond the expiration date. Solutions and suspensions that require refrigeration may lose their power faster and may develop bacteria.

Exceptions to the Rule

According to research, insulin, nitroglycerin and liquid antibiotics do change significantly with time. Another exception is tetracycline because of the 1963 report that linked tarnished tetracycline to Fanconi Syndrome. However, researchers do not agree on this. They question the accuracy of this case report and the formulation of tetracycline in question is no longer used.

The Necessity for an Expiry Date

From the research done by the FDA, the original strength of drugs may be lower after the expiry date but it is still there after many years. Manufacturers stamp a conservative expiry date to make sure that you get everything that you paid for. At least, up to the expiry date, they can guarantee the full potency of the drug but after that date they know the potency declines. Therefore, they will not take legal risks by guaranteeing their productsโ€™ stability, potency and safety after the expiry date. After all, after a consumer or dispenser opens the original package, the manufacturer has no control over heat, humidity, light, and other storage factors that affect stability.

Another thing that affects expiry dates is time and money. Manufacturers prefer to focus on research and development to create new drugs instead of testing old drugs all the time for potency.

The Risks of Taking Expired Medicines

It is good that most medications remain potent beyond their expiry dates especially if they are kept in a cool place such as a refrigerator. However, there are risks associated with certain expired medications.

1. Loss of potency is a major health risk when it concerns antibiotics. There is the possibility of failing to treat the infection and high risk of developing antibiotic resistance.

2. As a general rule, drugs that exist in solution, e.g. injectable drugs, should be thrown away if they form a precipitant or if they look discoloured or cloudy.

3. Expired medicines that contain preservatives, such as eye drops, may be unsafe after their expiry date. When the preservative has worn out, bacterial growth may take place in the solution.

Conclusion

The next time you face a dilemma concerning expired medicines, you know what to do. If an antibiotic is expired and you need it, you are better off throwing it away and getting a new prescription. If you have liquid medicines that expired many years ago, they are possibly tainted so throw them away and get fresh medicines. Pills such as headache pills, etc. you are generally safe taking them if you cannot reach a pharmacy in time. If you are not sure what to do in any situation, contact the nearest pharmacy for advice. In life-threatening situations where it is difficult to access medicines, it is wise to use whatever is available even if is expired, while taking the person to a safe place for medical care.

You can also visit PharmEasy for information on how to avoid fake and illegal pharmacies: it connects you to local registered pharmacies in India. If your medicine is expired and you need it fast, you can consult a doctor online and get a prescription online so your medicine will be delivered on time.

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How to Trick Your Brain into Making Better Decisions (Backed By Scientific Studies)

What are some tools to use for effective decision making? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing site where questions are answered by people with unique insights. This answer was shared by Charles Duhigg, staff writer for the New York Times and author of Smarter Faster Better, on Quora:

Here is what scientific studies say will help you make better decisions:

Thinking through various, contradictory possibilities, and then trying to force yourself to figure out which ones are more or less likely, and why. (This is known as probabilistic thinking, and studies show that it significantly increases the quality of people’s decision making.)

Say, for instance, that you are trying to decide whether your group of rebels should attack the Death Star. Seems like an easy decision, right?

After all, the Death Star is filled with jerks, and it has a big glaring weakness (that apparently no architect considered when designing the ship): one well placed shot can blow up the entire thing.

If you are some hillbilly from Tatooine, you’ll charge off into space. You’ll think about this decision in binary terms (“The Empire=bad. The rebels=good. What can go wrong?”)

But, if you are practiced at decision making, you’ll probably do something a bit differently: you’ll sit down with Adm. Ackbar, and you’ll try to envision the dozens of different outcomes that are possible. (“We could get defeated before we make it to the ship. We could make it to the ship and not have enough X-wings.

We could have enough X-wings but then miss the shot. We could make the shot but our intel could be wrong. We could have good intel and make the shot and the Death Star blows up, but our reward is Jar Jar Binks…” You get the point.)

Now, here’s the thing: you aren’t going to be very precise at assigning probabilities to all those possibilities. (“What are the odds that our intel is bad?”) But forcing yourself to think through all the possibilities and then simply TRYING to assign odds will be really helpful in revealing what you do and don’t know.

So, maybe you are pretty certain that your intel is good, and maybe you are pretty certain that, if they can get close to the Death Star, your pilots will hit the target (because, after all, you’ve got the force on your side), but you aren’t particularly certain that you have enough X-wings to make sure that you’ll get close to the Death Star.

Now you know which parts of your plan are weakest, you know what you need to learn more about and what problems you need to solve to increase the odds of success.

Our brains, left to their own devices, prefer to think about choices in binary terms. (And, from an evolutionary standpoint, this is really efficient.)

But to make better decisions, we have to force ourselves to think probabilistically – AND THEN WE NEED TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE FACT THAT PROBABILISTIC THINKING TENDS TO REVEAL HOW MUCH WE DON’T KNOW.

It is scary to confront uncertainty. It can make you crazy and anxious. That’s why it is so much easier to look at choices as binary options (“I’ll either succeed or fail”) or deterministic outcomes (“I ended up married to her because she was my soulmate.”)

But if you genuinely want to make better decisions, you have to fight that instinct, and make yourself think about multiple possibilities – both the good and the bad – and be really honest with yourself about what you do and don’t know (and what is knowable and unknowable.)

And then you have to take a leap, and make a decision, and see it as  an experiment that gives you data, rather than a success or failure that you should congratulate yourself on/beat yourself up about.

Because, unfortunately, the force doesn’t really exist. But probabilities do.

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