Medication Expiration Date: How Long Does Medication Last?

Posted August 12, 2019 by Mitch Fraker - See Editorial Guidelines

When is the last time you checked your medication expiration date? It’s very easy, especially if you have a blinding headache, to take that aspirin without checking to make sure it hasn’t expired.

While it can be tempting to ignore the expiration date on any medication for various reasons, you should think twice before taking those expired drugs. Keep reading to learn more about expiration dates and whether expired drugs simply become less potent, or if taking them could be a fatal mistake.

medication expiration date

Drug Expiration Dates

The medication expiration date is meant to ensure the complete potency and safety of your medication. This is the date in which drug manufacturers can confidently say the product is safe and effective.

A study, called the SLEP program, was conducted in 1985 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to test the shelf life of military medications. The goal was to find out if the expiration dates of the drugs could be extended so that the medication could be used rather than replaced, which inevitably would save the government a lot of money.

It was found that about 90% of more than 100 drugs tested, both prescription and over-the-counter medication, were still safe to take nearly 3 years after the expiration date had passed. However, this is quite an old study and new drugs aren’t tested the same way, or typically tested again once passing the expiration date by 2-3 years. For legal and liability reasons, drug manufacturers won’t make recommendations about the stability of expired drugs.

If you have a serious health issue and have been prescribed medication to treat it, the best way to do so is by taking your medicine as directed. A medication expiration date exists to help make sure your drugs are as safe and effective as possible, so you can be as healthy as possible.

Does a Medication Expiration Date Mean Anything?

medication expiration date

You may find yourself wondering if the expiration dates on your prescriptions actually mean anything. If you find expired drugs in your cabinet, should you throw them away, or can you still take them? Will these expired prescriptions simply be less potent, or could they actually be dangerous to your health?

Some people argue that drug manufacturers are just trying to get people to spend more money by replacing expired pills. The reality is that a medication expiration date is there for a reason and it’s important that your medication is 100% effective.

You should be refilling your prescriptions regularly to play it safe. A loss of potency in your medication could be dangerous and could potentially cause major health concerns, especially if it’s something you need to take in order to stay healthy on a day-to-day basis. Keep reading to learn more about how Prescription Hope can help you save money on your prescription refills!

How Long Does Medication Typically Last?

The expiration date of a drug is estimated using stability testing under the good manufacturing practices that are determined by the FDA. In the United States, drug products typically have an expiration date that extends from 12-60 months from the time that they’re made by the manufacturer.

However, this expiration date changes once the original container of medication has been opened. You’ll notice that when you fill your prescription, there’s a date, sometimes referred to as a ‘beyond use’ or ‘discard after’ date, which is typically one year from the date the prescription was filled.

However, there are many other factors that affect drug expiration dates, such as the drug ingredients, presence of preservatives, temperature, light, humidity, and whether or not the medication has been stored correctly.

How To Make Medication Last Longer

Proper medication storage can help keep your medicine as safe and effective as possible up until the expiration date. The best place to store medicine is in a cool, dry space away from light. While your bathroom medicine cabinet can be a tempting spot, a bathroom has far too many fluctuations in both temperature and humidity to be a safe place to store medicine.

A better spot would be a cool, dark, and dry cabinet, or another storage solution in a place that is both cool and dry at all times. Your medication will last longer and hold up better if you’re storing it correctly.

Looking for more helpful tips for storing medication? Check out our blog post about organizing and remembering to take your medicine!

Is It Safe To Take Expired Medication?

While it may feel wasteful and be frustrating to throw expired drugs in the trash, it’s safest not to take expired medication. At the end of the day, expiration dates are put there to ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs.

If you’re unsure of whether or not your medication is safe to take, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist. They will be able to answer any health or safety concerns that you might have regarding your expired medicine. As some would say, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

While some studies have shown that much of a drug’s original potency remains up to a couple years after the medication expiration date has passed, it is also known that the effectiveness of medication may decrease over time. Also, there are some drugs that have been absolutely proven NOT to retain their potency past expiration dates, such as:

  • Insulin
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Liquid antibiotics

If you have expired medication and you’re trying to decide whether or not to take it, moreover the answer is that you shouldn’t. It’s not a good idea to take medication that hasn’t been proven to be safe and there is no way to ensure the effectiveness without putting your health at risk.

Instead, you should renew your prescription so you know that your medications are as safe and potent as possible. However, remembering to refill your prescriptions can be difficult for some but don’t worry, Prescription Hope can help.

With Prescription Hope your medications can be renewed and delivered right to your door, no hassle included. With a fresh supply of prescriptions delivered to you conveniently through the mail at an affordable cost, you won’t need to worry about expired medicine.

Why Does Medicine Expire?

Medicines can expire for a couple of different reasons. The main reason an expiration date has to be printed on the drug container is to guarantee a medicines full potency and strength. Manufacturers place expiration dates on the medicines because they cannot guarantee the potency and safety past the expiration date. For example, a medication such as insulin, may not provide the needed dose for an individual past the expiration date.

Other medicines will expire due to their chemical components. Some medications will have a risk of growing bacteria past the expiration date which may be harmful if the medication is taken. The chemical composition of certain drugs may also change over time.

How About Automatic Prescription Refills?

Prescription Hope offers automatic prescription refills so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to refill your prescription. And if your prescriptions are automatically being refilled as needed, you won’t have to worry about expired medication. You will have brand new, safe and effective medicine right at your doorstep.

Our simple solution will give you the confidence of knowing your medication will be refilled and delivered month after month. Prescription Hope is a nationally recognized prescription medication access program providing access to over 1,500 FDA-approved prescription medications for less. We work with over 180 U.S. based pharmaceutical manufacturers, including the top-100 prescribed brand-name medications in the United States. With Prescription Hope you don’t have to remember to refill your prescription each month, let us worry about that for you.

Questions? Visit our website to learn more about how Prescription Hope can help you save money on your prescription medications.