Medication Expiration Dates and What They Mean

Medication Expiration Dates and What They Mean

We’ve talked previously about food expiration dates. In general dates aren’t a hard-fast deadline of when to consume your food. But medication expiration dates aren’t the same and aren’t subjected to the same guidelines. When you take medication, whether an aspirin for a headache or an antibiotic for an infection, you want to know it’s safe and effective.

Here’s the low down on medication expiration dates…

The date on the medication bottle does mean a lot. Food labels aren’t closely regulated. However, medication expiration dates are based on scientific studies on the potency of the medication. External conditions such as temperature and humidity are varied and controlled for, to see when and at what circumstances the drug is compromised.

The short version is….

In general, the expiration date is based on the average time it takes for the medication to be degraded 10%. So, basically, it’s not as useful as it once was, and it’s time to throw it out.

After that,

If the medication expiration dates are based on potency of the product, not on spoilage like food products, taking a medication after its date is unlikely to cause you to get sick. The medicine just won’t work.

And that can be a big deal, depending on what you need medicine for. You may be able to tough out sore muscles or a headache, but if you think you’re going to take last year’s antibiotics, you could be setting yourself up for serious trouble.

First, you should have completed that prescription of antibiotics, as prescribed. But, if you didn’t, and now it’s some time later, you could be at risk for antibiotic resistance. In simple terms, you’re only killing off the weak bacteria leaving the strong ones to reproduce and “outsmart” the medication. Antibiotic resistance is a huge concern, with over 20,000 people in the US dying yearly, per the CDC.

Quick Tips

  • Don’t take medication past the expiration date.
  • Throw away an unused prescription medications so you do not accidentally take them past the expiration dates.
  • Follow the directions on the bottle in regards to storage.
  • If there are no directions, it is generally safe to assume that room temperature, dry, dark places will be optimal for storage.
  • Liquid drugs (like cough syrups) are more easily contaminated, so take precaution with use.
  • If your medication changes color or consistence, it is generally time to dispose of that medication.