Asked by Nancy, Edmonton, Canada
Is it dangerous to use medicine after the expiration date? Is it simply ineffective only and does not cause harm? Should expiration dates be observed accurately?
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
First, I'd like to commend you for checking the medication label for an expiration date -- after all, the dates are put there for a reason. Typically the label advises you not to use a medicine after a certain date, which is either set by the drug manufacturer or is one year from the time you get the medicine from the pharmacy -- whichever comes first. This is sometimes called the "beyond-use date." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sets standards regarding the potency of drugs; expiration dates are used to let consumers know that when stored properly, the medication will remain effective until that date. Pharmacists may use an earlier date for certain drugs (such as liquids) or when pills have been transferred from one container to another before being dispensed to the patient. Although using expired medicine is often not harmful, some drugs can become toxic after a while so it's safest to err on the side of caution and not use them.
Once you realize that a medicine is past its beyond-use date, it's also important to dispose of it properly. First check with your pharmacy or local hazardous waste department to see whether they have a medicine take-back or disposal program. Do not flush medicine down the toilet unless the label specifically states to do so; putting chemicals into the water supply can be dangerous to fish, wildlife and even humans. If you need to throw away the medicine yourself, take it out of the original container and mix it into a bag or jar of coffee grounds, kitty litter or dirt before putting it all in the trash. Remove and destroy the label from the original container before throwing that away as well.
|Most Viewed||Most Emailed|
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.
The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.