Don't Throw Expired Medication Away - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/2/03

Don't Throw Expired Medication Away

In past stories on medicines and medicine cabinets, I advised people to throw away medicines that had expired. I was very wrong and now I want to tell people not to do it. They are wasting perfectly good medicines when they do that.

Expiration dates on medicines are all about "marketing, turnover, and profits." The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has done the research for the military and they concluded that 90% of drugs are stable and potent years beyond the expiration date.

The expiration date on medicines is just an assurance from the drug companies that on that date the medicine was been tested and was good. It has nothing to do with the quality of the drug. And pharmacies, when they repackage drugs to fill a prescription, usually put on a one year expiration date. There is no scientific data for doing this. It is about making people think that somehow the medicine has gone bad or toxic and must be thrown away.

The military was faced with having to discard the so-called out of date drugs and asked the FDA to test the products to see if that was really necessary. In five years, the military spent $3.9 million on this testing and saved $263.4 million when they discovered they didn't have to discard the outdated drugs and purchasing new ones, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The FDA testing found that some drugs such as the antibiotic, Cipro, was safe to use some 15 years after the expiration date. Aspirin is perfectly fine five years after the date printed on the label and probably long after that. Experts call these very stable molecules.

Why do drug companies do this? It is about profits. They want short expirations dates so that you will buy new products. It is about money. It is planned obsolescence.

Having said all this I do have a warning. There are a few exceptions. Nitroglycerin, insulin, and some liquid antibiotics should not be used after the expiration date. And all drugs are best stored in a cool dry location so the bathroom may not be a good storage place.

The rest of those medicines in your cabinet can be kept for a number of years. 90% of drugs will be just fine for at least five years. Drugs degrade very, very slowly. Don't add to the profits of the pharmaceutical industry. Don't throw away good drugs.

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