Expiry Date Of Medicines : A Truth Behind
Recently Updated On: March 11th, 2018
The Date Of Expiry: A Fact
Several studies have shown that except some drugs (with certain conditions) nothing happens to most of the drugs on the date of expiry.
It does not convert to something like poison on any particular day. Date of expiry only means that drug may start losing its potency after that.
Unfortunately, there is no method to calculate the magic number of days where a medicine is still good after the expiration date.
Stocks of some of the drugs unused in World War II were found to be fully effective even after 50 years.
Expiry Date Of Medicines:
As according to the law, drug manufacturers are required to mark the expiry date of medicine.
This date is the guarantee of full potency and safety given by the manufacturer.
For legal and liability reasons, manufacturers will not make recommendations about the stability of drugs past the original expiration date.
What Does The ‘Drug Use By Date’ Mean?
If your medicine has a use by or before date instead of an expiry date, this usually means that you should not take the medicine after the end of the previous month.
For example, if the use by date is Dec 2017, you should not take the medicine after 30th Nov 2017.
What Does The Medicine Expiry Date Mean?
The medicine expiry date usually means that you should not take the medicine after the end of the month given.
For example, if the expiry date is Dec 2017, you should not take medicine after 31 Dec 2017.
If your doctor or pharmacist has given you any other instructions about using or dispose of your medicine, you should also follow these.
For example, your pharmacist may label a medicine: “discard seven days after opening”.
You should take any medicine that’s left after this time back to your pharmacist to dispose of. Even if it’s within the manufacturer’s expiry date.
Short Expiry Date:
Some medicines are given the short expiry date, such as:
Prepared Antibiotic mixtures: when the pharmacist adds water to a powered antibiotic, it changes the stability of the product, and the pharmacist will give it an expiry date of one or two weeks, depending on the product.
Eye Drops: these are usually given an expiry date of 30 to 45 days after first opening the container because your eyes are particularly sensitive to any bacteria that might get into the eye drops.
Liquid Medications: like a nasal spray or cough medicine or creams tend to be more worrisome than pills or tablets. Liquid and creams are made with preservatives, which are necessary to maintain the medications stability and keep it from spoiling.
Vaccines or cold chain medicines: Some medicines require a certain temperature to maintain their potency and stability, can expire before expiry date if the temperature is not maintained.
A country like in India, the maintenance of cold chain is in vain when the supply of electricity disturbed. Especially in the northern region, It is seen that when the temperature reaches above 450 C in summer the supply of electricity is got disturbed.
Sometimes it is difficult to maintain the cold chain in such situations. If the cold chain disturbed, there is no meaning of expiry date especially in vaccines, HCG (injectable used to maintain the pregnancy) and life-saving injectables.
Key Points To Avoid Early Expiration Of Medicines:
- Keep all medicine in original container in which they were dispensed
- Keep medicines in their original outer packing, to protect from sunlight
- All medicine should be kept in a cool(below 250 C) dry place unless refrigeration is required
- The expiry date of products can change once opened. Record the date opened, calculate expiry and noted on the medicine package/ label.
- Store as recommended by the manufacturer
- Use disposable gloves per patient when applying creams or ointments
- Medication should be user specific and sharing of medicines including creams and ointments is prohibited.
Effects Of Using Medicines of Expiry Date:
- The active drug could become chemically unstable
- The effectiveness of the drug may change
- The breakdown products of the drug may be toxic and harmful in certain medicines, e.g.- eye drops
So the next time when some of the medicines get expired in your First aid kit, no need to worry. You can use it if it is not the life-saving or emergency usable drug.
“Three weeks after the expiration date is probably fine. Three months or three years? I am not sure,” says Mr. Graedon, the pharmacologist, author of the best-selling “People’s Pharmacy” books.
He says, “There is no thumb rule, but to be super cautious, stop using any medication within few weeks after the expiration date.’
You cannot ignore the other side of the coin if you calculate that how many billions of dollars the pharmaceutical industry bilk out of unknowing consumers every year who discard perfectly good drugs and buy new ones because they trust the industry’s “expiration date labeling.”