What’s Behind Medication Expiration Dates?

If you’re like most of us, you have a place in your home dedicated to storing medications of all types. You probably have some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen stored there as well as leftover antibiotics or daily medications you take on a regular basis. There may even be some ointments or sleep aids mixed in with your other products. How long will these medicines keep? Do they really go bad? Are they even safe to use?

The history of expiration dates on medicines goes back to 1979 when a law was passed requiring manufacturers to place expiration dates on medicines. The date represents how far into the future the manufacturer can guarantee the medication’s efficacy and safety.

What’s Behind Medication Expiration Dates?

The military has a large stockpile of drugs on hand for obvious reasons. They were replacing these drugs every few years. They eventually asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do a study on expired medications and whether or not they were still useful past their expiration dates. This study covered more than 100 different drugs. The FDA discovered that out of that test group, 90% of them were still good and effective 15 years past their expiration date. (For more information about this study, visit this ARTICLE.)

The bottom line? Don’t be so quick to toss out those old medicine bottles, especially for items that may be good to have on hand to keep your life primed. Those might include pain relievers, antibiotic ointments, oral antibiotics, or antihistamines. If you need to ensure your medicine cabinet is stocked with drugs at 100% effectiveness, you may want to do a cleanout every few years to replace them. After all, if there is a shortage of a particular drug and you have an expired supply in your cabinet, it will be better to have it on hand than to have none at all. For more information on stocking up on medicine, see our article HERE.