It’s probably close to a guarantee that you have expired drugs of some sort sitting in your medicine cabinet. Perhaps it’s in your first aid kit or hiding in the bottom of your purse. Whether it’s something as simple as Tylenol or Polysporin or some antidepressant, such as Effexor, that you forgot was in your medicine cabinet, you are sure to have some medications lurking around that are past their date. The thing is that these expired medications can be more dangerous to you than expired food sitting in your refrigerator.
What That Expiry Date Means
The expiry date placed on medications indicates it is the last day that the drug is expected to have full potency. It is also the last day that the safety of the medication is guaranteed. The stability of a drug is guaranteed only up to the expiry date and once they pass their expiry date they begin to break down and there is no telling how stable the medication is or how safe. Most medications do not turn toxic when they pass their expiry date, but if you are relying on their potency, then you might be disappointed. Some medications do become toxic after they pass their expiry date. One such medication is the antibiotic tetracycline, which becomes toxic once it begins to break down. Insulin, such as Lantus, is another type of medication that becomes toxic when it passes its expiry date.
What to Do
It is more likely that the medications you don’t use regularly are the ones that have passed their expiry date. Those you use on a daily basis are probably fine. It doesn’t hurt to go through your medicine cabinet once or twice a year to find any medication that has expired. Look at the expiry date on the package and do not use any that are past the date. If you have drugs that you use seasonally, such as cold and flu medications (e.g. Tylenol Cold Extra Strength Daytime) or allergy medications (e.g. Claritin or Allegra), then check the expiry date before you take it. Any expired medication you do find should be taken to your local pharmacy so that they can properly dispose of it.
It’s all about common sense and keeping safe. You wouldn’t eat that ground beef that has been in your fridge for a week, so why would you take that medicine that expired six months ago? Once medications begin to break down there is no telling what they will degrade into or how they will react in your body, so why take the risk? When in doubt, do NOT take your medication. Consult your pharmacist if you have any questions and be sure that your medication is providing you with the results you need. And for goodness sake, get rid of all that expired medication sitting around in your home. Stay safe and stay healthy.