True expiry dates for medication

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Apr 30, 2003
Ontario, Canada
There should be a database where people can look up how long their medication really lasts. OTC stuff typically sports a three year expiry. Do you really believe every kind of stuff expires after three years? I have a bottle of calcium pills that expired in 2008, but it's basically powdered rock, and will still be powdered rock ten years from now. Aspirin, on the other hand, does slowly break down and become ineffective.

How long does Tylenol last?
How long does cough syrup keep working?
How long before your bottle of Viagra will let you down?
Factoring the influence the producers have with the FDA, I'd say that they probably put a 50% safety factor. I don't KNOW this ..I just reason that they would never put the real expiration date on anything. It's probably like ASME pressure code piping spec's ..6:1 or 8:1 safety factors
I think it's part planned obsolescence, and part truth. If advertising has to be true, that rule should also apply to expiry dates. Food producers seem to do a good job on their products' expiry dates. Does a potassium pill really stop being potassium after four years?
I've never concerned myself with expiry dates on medication. Fortunately, I don't depend on it and I'm certainly not going to be harmed if my ibuprofen only works 90% as good as it originally did!

It would be interesting to know the true lifespan of medication, but I don't think there's any incentive for the pharmaceutical companies to test effectiveness beyond a few years.
Keep unused meds in the deep freeze,well sealed. Every ten degrees C that you drop the temp, you cut in half the rate of decomposition. So a 40 C drop would be 1/2E4 or 1/16 the rate of decay.
just like motor oil, meds go bad, a day after their expiration date. I mean
look flu vacs we dump millions doses every yr cuz the vacs go bad a day after the flu season is over. probably not day, prolly at midnight.
u have remember the responsible citizens at the big pharma have only ur wellbeing in mind.
it is illegal to use meds prescribed for someone else, cuz comeon u public edumarketed folks cannot read a label. u need a lic. to read a label.

I betcha that they will come up with pills that melt away after x days

the is pure scarcasm aimed at fine med policies
A family member, who's a pharmacist, told me he usually considers one yr past expiry date OK. I think most drugs just lose their effectiveness.
But aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) does break down into acetic acid ... although no idea of time. One of the resident pharmacists can chime in.
It is not planned obsolesces. I worked for a pharmaceutical company for 13 years. I am not a pharmacist but, did some drug stability testing to determine shelve life. and at the top of the list is Making sure the patient gets the prescribed dosage listed. Drugs; even aspirin decomposes and the rate depends on several factors including storage temperature and the color temperature of the light hitting the container in addition to how many time the container is opened. Remember that not all homes have AC and some people put their drugs in the glove compartment. For the most common across the counter drugs, the expiration date is listed at ~ 50 of dark, cool 68 F. storage.
A vaccine or antibiotics are only as effective as much as your immune system can match up with the disabled pathogens to make its own defenses. if its decayed the 'template' isn't good enough. they get tossed/detroyed very quick. As far as element/compound vitamin or otc meds, air will degrade it. In humid enviroments i expect them to "go bad" quicker, from all the extra oxygen in the air. They say distilled water isn't clean distilled the second you open it, it grabs ions and gets acidic. I would take headache meds from 2004 even, 2008 no problem. Now protein powder...I've used some old free stuff, and um well...I was stepping on more frogs than normal for sure. Don't go on a date after using old powder LOL.
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Yep, it definitely varies with type of drug. I would not use an antibiotic beyond the expiry date; however, opiates such as codeine, Percocet, etc. do not lose their potency with age IIRC and should be fine but that's just my opinion. Opiates are the one drug I would never throw out.

As Eddie said aspirin will decompose into acetic acid, easy to tell because it really smells vinegarish.
Vaccines or something really complex I'd want really fresh. good point about temperature dependence of decomposition. Keeping drugs in a frost-free (dry) freezer would probably make them last a very long time.
I think it is as important to know how the medicine degrades. Does it simply lose its potency, or does it morph into something that can be harmful and poisonous? Old medications can do either of these things.
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