Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Expired Drug Products: Are They Still Safe For Use?

It is commonplace to see expiry dates on all drug products prescribed and dispensed for use to patients. This usually presents a dilema amongst patients using these medicines as to whether to use or not use a medicine after this expiration date has elapsed.

What Are Expiration Dates?

An expiry date (as seen on all products that carry them) is the final day that a manufacturer of a product can guarrantee its full potency and safety for use. Beyond this date, the manufacturer cannot guarrantee 100% potency and safety rates.

Drug manufacturers are mandated by law to stamp this expiration date on all medicines and they arrive at this date by testing the stability of these product under different storage, packaging and handling conditions. Most drug products (along with almost all food and cosmetic products) often have an expiry date range within 12 months - 60 months after manufacture.

However, once the original packaging of a drug product is opened for use, the expiry date stated on the product package becomes null and void. In this case, such products have a "best before" use date which is usually within 1 month to about 12 months (maximum) after product has been opened for use, after which such a product must be discarded.

Are Expired Products Still Safe For Use?

Research work concluded in 2001 and published by the American Medical Association (AMA) suggests that many drugs show adequate therapeutic potency and satisfactory safety profiles for extended periods after the expiration date has elapsed.

However, it is difficult for a prescriber or patient to know which particular drug product has an extended drug potency and safety well above the stated expiry date as this is directly dependent on the particular drug ingredient, storage condition, temperature fluctuation, environmental humidity and lights.

Unless adviced by a healthcare professional, patients are (as a rule of thumb) to discard a drug product after it's expiry date has elapsed to guarrantee maximum safety and potency during use. It should however be noted that a good number of expired products have often times been shown to have good potency and safety for 1 - 6 years after expiration (provided they are still in their original product packaging) and manufacturers are usually conservative about stated expiry dates just to make sure product safey and potency is guarranteed for the consumer.

Nevertheless, professional advice should be sort first from a doctor or pharmacist before consuming drugs past the expiry dates at all times.

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