Controversy: How Long After Their Expiration Dates Are Medications Actually Usable?

The answer to this often asked question will surprise you!!!!  Please read each of the attached articles and do you own research.  You are responsible for your choices in the use of any medications, supplements, and other items.  However, generally, medications in pill or capsule form are potent for several years past their written expiration date.  The articles below show in some cases medications retain up to 90% of their potency for up to 15 years!!!!.  Liquid based medications do not maintain their potency nearly as long.  Read this information and do your own research before you decide how you will respond.

Why is this information valuable to you?

1.In life and death situations, such as extreme allergic reaction, a life could be saved even if the EipPen is expired.  There won’t be many cases as extreme as this, but having the confidence to use an expired EPI Pen, understanding that the fact it is expired does not mean is it dangerous, could literally save a life!

2017 research on expired EpiPens has been published. A small evaluation of almost 40 expired, unused EpiPens gathered from patients showed that the pens retained 80% of their initial dose of epinephrine, some for up to four years past the expiration date on the device. The lowest level of epinephrine was found in an EpiPen Jr. 30 months past its expiration date; it retain over 80% of it’s original epinephrine dose. About 65% of the EpiPens and 56% of the EpiPen Jrs. contained at least 90% of their initial dose.

In a life-threatening allergic situation, if there is no other option, use of an expired EpiPen should be considered if it is the only auto-injector available and there are no discoloration or precipitates seen in the solution. In this case, the potential benefit of saving a life is greater than the potential risk of death by not using.

2.  Expense. Families need to make the best of their resources and finances.  If your medications are almost expired it is good to know they are not dangerous.  They may be a bit less potent than when purchased, but they are not harmful.  The same for items like Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, Melatonin, etc.   We have been taught to believe these items are harmful if they are “expired”.  The aforementioned Harvard study reveals this simply is not the case.  Again, it is important you review information on this topic and come to your own decision as to how you wish to proceed.

3.  Peace of Mind:  When you have a splitting headache and the medication you have on hand is expired you can confidently know what you have is better than nothing. It will relieve your headache, toothache, or other pain better than not taking the medication.  According to the research information at hand if in good condition what you have should not harm you.

The U.S. Air Force started a study in 1985 and later extended it to other military services in the early 1990s. The military had gathered a stockpile of medications worth more than a billion dollars that were close to or past their expiration dates. No one wanted to throw away expensive medications that might still be safe and effective. So the drugs were extensively tested with oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The verdict? Most medications were still good nearly 3 years past their expiration dates.

The only articles I could find refuting this information are below.  They are written by pharmacists rather than MDs or researchers.



Harvard Health Studies                                               

Is it ok to use medications past their expiration dates?

Drug Expiration Dates — Do They Mean Anything?

FDA study gets to the heart of expired medicine and safety

Published: November, 2003




Can I still use prescription drugs after they expire?      The Harvard Medical School republished a well-worn article in August that recounted a 1985 study in which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looked to pinpoint expiration dates for more than 100 drugs in an effort to unburden the U.S. military from some of the exorbitant annual costs of replacing its pharmaceuticals.

The study showed that 90 per cent of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were fine to use well after expiry dates had passed, and in some cases more than 15 years after the expiration date had come and gone.


LIVE SCIENCE    Does Medicine Really Expire?    By Megan Gannon – Live Science Contributor March 24, 2019

But not everyone knows that, so poison control centers occasionally get calls from people who are concerned because they accidentally took expired medication, said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego Division of the California Poison Control System.

“The last time I checked, I haven’t seen any peer-reviewed documentation of expired medicine causing any problems in people,” Cantrell told Live Science. The effectiveness of medicines, however, may degrade over time, but there are few studies on the issue, he said.

That said, several years ago, Cantrell had a rare opportunity to examine an old stash of drugs — including antihistamines, pain relievers and diet pills — found in the back of a pharmacy.

“We found that those medications, some of them at least 40 years past their manufacture date, still retained full potency,” Cantrell said. That study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2012. Cantrell published another study in 2017 showing that EpiPens — the expensive auto-injectors used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions — retained 84 percent of their potency more than four years past their expiration dates, suggesting that in an emergency, an expired EpiPen would be better than nothing.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s