AUG 28, 2018 12:42 PM PDT

Expired Medications: To Take or Not To Take

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

Do medications go bad past their expiration dates? Unlike perishable foods, which can become moldy, most drugs in their original packaging don't support the growth of bacteria or fungi.

But that does not mean that we can ignore their expiry dates. Nowadays, pharmaceutical companies routinely expose their medications to different environmental factors like temperatures and humidity levels to test the speed of drug degradation. The original push to study drug expiration came from the request of the military. Without knowing the effectiveness window of a large number of different medications, some bearing costly price tags, the army had to replace its entire drug inventory every few years.    

Can we take expired drugs? Well, it depends. For those drugs that treat headaches and fever, the effectiveness can be compromised past expiration. They unlikely do you any harm; it just might not relieve your symptoms well. But for expired antibiotics, the consequence could be dire. Using antibiotics of reduced dosage or potency could fail to treat the infection and help microbes build up the tolerance of the drug.

All in all, the next time you face the drug expiration date dilemma, skip the guesswork and ask your pharmacist instead. 

Source: ACS Reactions via Youtube

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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