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Is It Safe To Take Expired Medicine?

Published on May 13th, 2017

With the high cost of prescription and over-the-counter medications, patients often want to know if it is safe to take the expired medication sitting in their medicine cabinet in order to save money. The safety of expired drugs really depends on a variety of factors, including the type of medication, how it has been stored, and how long it has been expired.

A medication’s expiration date indicates how long the manufacturer guarantees the drug’s maximum efficacy. Pharmaceutical companies tend to be conservative with medication expiration dates, especially with over-the-counter medications. Aspirin and other common over-the-counter drugs are often effective and perfectly safe for several years past the assigned expiration date provided that they were not exposed to extreme temperatures, moisture, or direct sunlight.
Prescription medications, on the other hand, should not be used after the expiration date. Liquid medications, eye drops, and ear drops are no longer sterile once the seal is opened and can quickly become contaminated. Nitroglycerin tablets used to treat chest pain lose their potency quickly, especially if not stored properly. It is also never advisable to take leftover antibiotics. If the medication has lost any of its potency, it will not adequately address the infection. Without consulting a doctor, it is also impossible to know if the particular antibiotic is the right one to treat the infection.

If there is any doubt about an expired medication’s safety, the best option is to dispose of it properly through a community “drug take back” program.

The pharmacists and staff of our compounding pharmacy are always happy to answer any questions that you may have about your medications and medication safety.

  • It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know.

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA