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Expired Medication

With molding carrots and curdled milk it’s easy to notice when the right time is to throw away your food, but how do you know when your medication is also ready to be thrown out? Using expired medications can be seriously harmful to your health. For many, looking at the expiration date on a medication bottle is not natural instinct which leads to the belief that medications are good as long as they last.

Expiration dates on over-the-counter and prescription medications are a critical factor in determining whether a medication is still safe and effective to use. Expiration date assures that the drug meets applicable standards of quality, strength, and purity at the time of use. The date written on the bottle or product is only valid as long as the medication is kept in its original container and stored per specific manufacturer conditions.

Over time, the chemical composition of medications changes causing a decrease in potency even when it is stored as directed by the manufacturer. Improper storage, such as in a bathroom cabinet, where there’s a higher chance of humidity can contribute to more rapidly decreased effectiveness in medications. Environmental factors such as light, temperature, and air can also alter medication effectiveness.

How do you discard a medication once it is expired? According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can:

  • follow specific disposal instructions written on the package insert attached to the medication bottle,
  • call the city for take-back programs,
  • or for many medications, you can remove the medication from the original container and mix it with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter then place it in a container to keep from leaking out of garbage bag.

If the expiration date on a medication has passed, it’s in your best interest to toss it and buy a new bottle to ensure 100% safety and efficacy of what you are ingesting and/or applying topically to your body.

– Virta Bathani, Pharm.D.

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