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The drug expiry date: A necessary safety measure, or yet another Big Pharma conspiracy?

Consider this scenario: You’re in good health and take no prescription drugs. You use the following remedies occasionally:

  • Excedrin for the rare migraine
  • Arnica 30CH for bumps and bruises
  • Echinacea capsules, when you feel a cold coming on

Today you look in your cupboard, and notice all three products expired last year. Would you still consider taking any of them? Why or why not?

Your answer is probably influenced by a number of factors, including perceptions of risk and benefit. I’ve encountered patients who believe that drugs are less active as they near the expiration date, and others who see expiry dates solely as marketing ploy from Big Pharma. Few understand how they’re calculated.

Over the past few months I’ve written several posts on different aspects of drug development and testing, including drug interactions, fillers and excipients in drug products, the equivalence testing of generic drugs, and the management of drug allergies. I’ve done this for two reasons. The first is to develop a SBM-oriented resource for common questions and misconceptions about the mechanics of modern medicines. The second, less obvious reason for these posts has been to illustrate the serious credibility gaps with CAM therapies. Largely because of a lax regulatory framework, the CAM industry has ballooned into a multi-billion dollar market without answering basic questions that should be asked of any supplement or drug, “alternative” or otherwise. What’s not well known to consumers, but is glaringly obvious to SBM advocates, is that CAM largely ignores issues of  pharmacology: understanding how a chemical substance, once consumed, behaves in the body. It’s critical to scientific medicine, but an unnecessary step for CAM, where there’s no need to determine if a product has a beneficial biological effect before selling it. Fundamental tests in medicine, like the identification and isolation of an active ingredient, or understanding dose-effect relationships, are simply ignored. As David Gorski and Mark Crislip have pointed out over the past week, we have a reality bias at SBM.  And this bias is equally jarring when it comes to considering expiry dates for products: real drugs, and also CAM.

Expiry dates are the source of a lot of questions to pharmacists. Not only is the pharmacy legally responsible for ensuring your prescription is filled with “in-date” stock, we’re regularly confronted with dealing with expired drugs. Because of expiry dates, an enormous quantity of drugs are manufactured and sold or dispensed, but never consumed. This creates a significant wastage issue: Last month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s  National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day collected 552,161 pounds (that’s 276 tons) of unwanted or expired drugs. Those are drugs that someone paid for, and are now being incinerated. If expiry dates are nonsense, extending them could have considerable economic and environmental benefits. So where does the expiry date come from? For drugs, they’re based on the chemical characteristics of the product itself.

Calculating the expiry date

At some point after major clinical trials are concluded, but before FDA approval, a series of quality standards are established for each new drug. These are the manufacturing and testing specifications, which includes upper and lower limits for the amount of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) in each dose unit (e.g., 500mg per tablet). The final dosage form may be a mix of the API as well as fillers, binders, and other ingredients to ensure the API is delivered to the body in a reliable and predictable manner.  But what certainty do we have that this new dosage form will maintain all of these properties over time?  What happens after it sits on a shelf for two or three years, or more? Few companies have the patience to wait, so drug products are put through accelerated degradation testing, or “stress” testing, to estimate how quickly a drug will deteriorate. Depending on the dosage form, stress testing may include short-term exposure to extremes of heat, light, oxidation, and humidity. After exposure over different time periods, the quantity of the API, and the other product characteristics, will be assayed again. Not only does this help us understand how stable a drug is, it illustrates the degradation pathways – what chemical reactions that could be expected to occur over time. For liquid and injectable drugs, there will be additional tests for bacterial purity and chemical stability. All of these tests predict the overall stability of the dosage form – not just the amount of  drug, but how that drug will be absorbed into the body. All of this is used to estimate what the expiry date should be: the date to which the manufacturer warrants the original product characteristics will be retained.

Expiry dates for drugs can vary dramatically. One of the shortest for a drug in common use is injectable epinephrine known as the “Epipen”, carried by those with severe allergies. Epinephrine for injection is notoriously unstable, and you’re lucky to find a product that expires longer than 18 months after you get it.  Other drug products are highly sensitive to moisture, requiring dispensing in specialized containers with dessicants to trap moisture and enhance stability. Many liquid antibiotics have very poor stability, so they must be prepared in the pharmacy at the time of dispensing. Refrigeration is necessary for other drugs, ranging from vaccines to eyedrops, which keeps the dosage form stable.

It is important to keep in mind that the expiry date of a drug is based on testing of previously unopened products, stored in its original container, and maintained under typical conditions. Once you open a bottle, or transfer it to another container (like a prescription vial), the manufacturer’s expiry date is no longer reliable. That doesn’t mean a drug will become ineffective rapidly, but the stability could be compromised once it has been introduced to light, heat, and humidity. Humidity’s effects are frequently noticable with old bottles of Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) which breaks down via hydrolysis to salicylic acid and acetic acid giving old bottles a characteristic vinegar odour.

Are expired drugs still safe?

The first concern related to expired drugs is whether they are potentially harmful if consumed. Reassuringly, there is no published data to suggest harms from use of drug formulations after their expiry data. The example of degraded tetracycline causing kidney damage in cases dating back to the 1960′s, is drilled into every pharmacist’s brain. Reassuringly, this occurred with a version of the drug that is no longer available. While recognizing that case reports are an inaccurate and imprecise way of identifying harms, the lack of documented harms suggests that degradation of useful chemicals into toxic compounds is rare, if it occurs at all. Additionally, current requirements for stability testing of drugs should identify if expired products pose a safety risk – and there do not seem to be any other documented cases.

Are expired drugs still effective?

Again, the evidence is reassuring – with some caveats. The best way to verify long-term stability would be to stockpile supplies, let them sit for years, and even decades, and then test them. My American colleagues can thank their government for doing just such testing- the Department of Defense/FDA Shelf Life Extension Program has been in place for over 20 years. It tested 122 different products, stored unopened and in their original containers, and found that about 88% are stable for at least one year after expiry with an average of 5 years after the expiry date. However, this was under ideal conditions – not typical use consumer use, where bottles are usually partially consumed, and partially exposed to moisture and light. Stability isn’t always a given. Epipen’s active ingredient degrades consistently after the expiration. So I’d never suggest people carry an expired Epi-Pen – but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend its use in life-threatening anaphylactic situations where no other alternatives existed. Similarly, you may be less concerned about drug potency if you’re taking something like Excedrin for a headache, versus medication to treat epilepsy, where small changes in the dose delivered could affect drug levels. Because of sterility concerns, you should throw out an eye drop that has been open for several months, even if the expiry date still says it’s OK to use – that expiry date was for unopened drug.  And if you leave your prescriptions to cook on the dash of your car in the hot sun (I have encountered this) speak with a pharmacist who may be able to get drug-specific stability data.

Disposing of expired drugs

I was surprised to see that the FDA suggests some drugs can be safely disposed of by flushing down the toilet. I could not find similar guidance in Canada, where medication return programs are common and many pharmacies participate. Return program incinerate the drug, eliminating secondary environmental exposure. This method also minimizes the risk of diversion or accidental poisoning.

Revisiting our vignette

Excedrin is a combination of acetaminiophen (Tylenol), acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) and caffeine. Excedrin may be effective after expiration – but sniff for the vinegar odour, which indicates the ASA has deteriorated.  Expired Excedrin is unlikely to be harmful, but has the potential for degradation over time.

Arnica 30CH is a homeopathic product. It has no active ingredients, and no meaningful therapeutic effects, so there’s nothing to “expire”. However, regulators like Health Canada insist that an expiry date must be assigned:

Expiry date: The earlier of:

the date, expressed at minimum as a year and month, up to and including which a NHP [Natural Health Product] maintains its purity and physical characteristics and its medicinal ingredients maintain their quantity per dosage unit and their potency; and
the date, expressed at minimum as a year and month, after which the manufacturer recommends that the NHP should not be used.

Given homeopathy, once diluted to typical concentrations, contains zero active ingredients, I’m curious why Health Canada allowed language like “medicinal ingredients” and “quantity per dosage unit” for establishing standards for what are quite literally sugar pills. The FDA, to its credit, recognizes that the non-ingredients of homeopathy can’t be measured and can’t expire:

1. Section 211.137 (Expiration dating) specifically exempts homeopathic drug products from expiration dating requirements.

There’s no good evidence to demonstrate echinacea is effective for preventing or treating colds. The active ingredients, if any exist, have not been identified and isolated. Capsules of echinacea usually contain pieces of the root or rhizome. Given the active ingredient isn’t known, there’s no way to test for its presence. And if you can’t verify the amount of active ingredient in each capsule, you can’t verify its stability over time. So for herbal products without standardized active ingredients, any expiry date is going to be arbitrary – unrelated to product quality or safety. Not surprisingly, the FDA does not require expiry dates to be placed on dietary supplements, an acknowledgement that you can’t verify what you haven’t found. In contrast to the FDA, Health Canada requires an expiry date to be assigned for herbal products.

Conclusion

There’s no single rule for expired drugs and supplements, owing to the variety of products, regulatory requirements, and other factors that can influence a product’s safety and efficacy. In general, expiry dates are conservative, and consumers can have confidence that drug labeling claims will be accurate up to, and in some cases well beyond, the labelled expiry date. The reality is that we don’t store drugs under ideal circumstances. So when absolute certainty is required, stick to drug products that are not expired. When absolutely necessary, expired drugs are probably safe, however, the potency may be compromised. And when you’re talking about supplements, herbals, and homeopathy, keep in mind that any expiry dates are usually arbitrary. And before you flush or toss those expired drugs, find ways to dispose of them in a way that minimizes the environmental impact and potential for harm.

Posted in: Basic Science, Herbs & Supplements, Pharmaceuticals

Leave a Comment (32) ↓

32 thoughts on “The drug expiry date: A necessary safety measure, or yet another Big Pharma conspiracy?

  1. rork says:

    Don’t fret: We are working on a way to measure how much memory the water has lost. If we fail, some quantum explanation for there being perfect memory will be constructed.

  2. DugganSC says:

    Personally, I hold onto all sorts of expired medicine in my house. As noted above, it may not be at its full potency, but it’s not dangerous and it’s better than nothing. Once quick question on a specific case above, what effect does the breakdown of aspirin have other than the smell? It sounds like both of the active components are still present. I’ve never had ill effects, and it seems to work just as well for me, but then again, I sometimes wonder how much things like aspirin are influenced by how well we think they’ll work, a form of the placebo effect enhancing the natural pain-killing aspects of the medicine.

  3. DevoutCatalyst says:

    No need rork, just a little Ginkgo biloba added to homeopathic remedies will insure perfect memory. There’s a succusser born every minute.

  4. cervantes says:

    Duggan — basically, salycylic acid is the active agent. It’s what’s found in willow bark and it’s the metabolite of aspirin (acetylsalycylic acid) that has the biological effect. But the reason we don’t just swallow it as is is because it’s more irritating to the stomach than the acetylized form. That would be the problem with the degraded product, as far as I know.

  5. Janet Camp says:

    I tend to keep stuff (in the pharmacy containers) in a closet (dark and dry) for ages, especially something I only use in case of a flare up. I’ve been told different things (from “it’s all arbitrary” to “it’s useless after the date” by various pharmacists and recently tossed (trash, not toilet) a bunch because I was told most recently that the stuff all degrades over time and the dates are a good rule of thumb.

    Thanks for this discussion. At least I see now why I’ve been told a variety of things.

  6. Scott says:

    One of the shortest for a drug in common use is injectable epinephrine known as the “Epipen”, carried by those with severe allergies. Epinephrine for injection is notoriously unstable, and you’re lucky to find a product that expires longer than 18 months after you get it.

    I was quite surprised to read this. When I get a prescription (including some meds FAR more common than epipens) it is invariably listed as expiring 12 months after being dispensed. Why the discrepancy?

  7. cervantes says:

    Scott — the discrepancy is because, as the post says, “you’re lucky to find a product that expires longer than 18 months after you get it.” You haven’t been so lucky.

  8. DugganSC says:

    Plus, of course, the companies understandably want to cover their ass just in case you use your 14-month-old pen and it turns out that it’s lost all efficacy and you die from anaphylactic shock. Not to mention, of course, that if you say 12 months, people will keep them for 18 to save a little money and/or because they’re lazy, same reason people wait a few thousand miles after the recommended oil change date (well, that and the oil change dates are needlessly conservative).

  9. Scott says:

    @ cervantes:

    You miss my point. Epipens were stated as being remarkable for having expiration dates that short. But everything else I’ve ever seen has an expiration date much shorter. If it’s the case that nothing has a shelf life longer than 12 months, why say that epipens are notoriously short-lived for going out up to 18?

    1. Scott Gavura says:

      @Scott:
      Are the expiry dates you refer to printed on the pharmacy-generated prescription label? Or the manufacturer packaging?

  10. Scott says:

    Bleh, forgot to clarify the one key point! I’m specifically talking about extremely common tablets, like statins or thyroxine.

  11. fatbob says:

    Don’t you put salycylic acid on foot warts and then it kills the skin around them as well if you spread it around too much?

  12. Scott says:

    The pharmacy-generated prescription label. Does that imply that the pharmacy’s just ignoring what the manufacturer says?

    1. Scott Gavura says:

      @Scott:
      What it means is the pharmacy is assigning an expiry date, which is arbitrary. (I have not seen this in Canada.) It isn’t “ignoring” the manufacturer’s date. As I pointed out, that date is no longer relevant. This is because (say in the case of a tablet) a product has been transferred from a factory-sealed, opaque container filled with dessicant to a different container – usually a transparent vial that is not protected from light or moisture.

      Most dispensed prescriptions are used up within weeks or months. If a prescription lasts longer than a year then it’s a sign the dispensing quantity was too large.

  13. fledarmus1 says:

    @Scott – as was said in the original article, “It is important to keep in mind that the expiry date of a drug is based on testing of previously unopened products, stored in its original container, and maintained under typical conditions. Once you open a bottle, or transfer it to another container (like a prescription vial), the manufacturer’s expiry date is no longer reliable.”

    I know at the pharmacy my wife worked out, the policy was to mark everything they repackaged as expiring after 12 months, unless it would actually expire earlier. That is just the pharmacy’s way of avoiding liability for anything that might happen.

  14. Scott says:

    Thanks, that makes a lot more sense now.

  15. Harriet Hall says:

    As a newly minted MD and Air Force Captain back in 1971, I was assigned to a small clinic in southern Spain where I soon ended up being the sole doctor. One day the pharmacy tech came to me and said he was required to review the expired meds and have a doctor sign off on the ones he could keep dispensing. He told me all I needed to do was to look at the meds and see if there were any obvious signs of deterioration like crumbling or color change. They all looked OK and we approved them. Chances are we didn’t do any harm, but I will always wonder…

  16. Ken Hamer says:

    Not that I’m concerned, but I sometimes take time-release 100mg Norflex (aka orphenadrine citrate) that usually has an expiry date of about 12 months. A pharmacist once explained to me that the short expiry time was because the manufacturer could not guarantee the stability of the time-release carrier, which seem reasonable to me.

    But does that mean that with expired Norflex the entire dose (worst case) could conceivably be released all at once? I gather that would be the equivalent of about a triple dose, of a muscle relaxant.

  17. djhollen says:

    I have a question. My husband has chronic bronchitis that the doctor prescribed Advair to treat. It’s a steroid powder you inhale twice a day. Well the problem is that these 1 month supply disc things cost $260 each which is a lot for us right now. A friend of ours gave him 2 unopened discs (properly stored) that expired 1 year ago. do you think they’re still good? I would like to use them as they’ll save us a ton of money right now.

  18. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    I remember several years ago hearing a BBC Radio 4 phone-in programme about eye problems and there was a consultant ophthalmologist who related a story from his career. A mother and son visited him. The son had a horrible and difficult to treat eye infection. Mother informed him that she had used some old eye drops initially for him. When asked it turned out that he’d had the drops prescribed a little while previously. When he was a toddler. 18 years ago.

    The eye drops were the source of the infection.

  19. lilady says:

    @ djhollen: There are programs to receive Advair Diskus Inhalation Powder at reduced prices, that your husband might qualify for:

    https://www.rxhope.com/pap/info/paplist.aspx?drugid=3615&fieldtype=drugid

  20. lilady says:

    My husband and I take 81mg. enteric-coated aspirin, prescribed by our doctor, every day. Here it makes sense and it is economical, to look for this OTC medicine in larger bottles. I also take a physician-prescribed Calcium+Vitamin D caplet each day, so I look to save money by purchasing a larger quantity. Both of these OTC medicines have “expiration dates” on the bottles and a quick calculation is the determining factor for purchasing the larger quantities.

    Any OTC salves or prescription salves, have expiration dates on them…sometime imprinted on the bottom of the tubes. I always look for the expiration date on OTC salves and prescribed salves are dispensed in smaller quantities, by the pharmacist.

  21. As someone who has had 25 years experience in research & development, operations, manufacturing, and marketing in Big Pharma and its sister Big Medica (medical devices), the expense of testing shelf life rivals the costs of some of the other steps of product development. Part of the problem is trying to imagine all the conditions under which a drug may be carried. Also, because we don’t want to delay a product launch for 2 or 3 years, we need to speed up the testing through different methods that mimic a 24 month shelf life in a few weeks.

    To dispel the “Big Pharma does this to make more money” or “Big Pharma does this to prevent lawsuits”, the former is definitely not true, and the latter merely means we’d prefer to have products that actually worked as intended. An engineer could describe it better than I will, but if we test the shelf life of a lot (manufacturing, not a bunch) of drugs, there will be variance. I think the date chosen is about 2 standard errors of the mean as being safe. Then QA, of course, constantly tests samples of each lot to make certain that it continues to meet that standard.

    The complexity in determining shelf life is incredible. I was involved with the recently popular insulin pens, and trying to hit that perfect point of how a user might store it versus making sure they don’t inject a bacteria laden solution or one with no efficacy. We even had to figure out if you could tell if it got frozen when stored, or if it was left in a car in Palm Springs in the middle of summer. You can’t. Then trying to make sure that when screwing on the needle (one needle per injection, or so we hoped), it did not introduce contamination–we actually had to test how long the resealable rubber like “closure” will last. It boggles the mind.

    I was in operations for a pharmaceutical company when our QA discovered that an error in manufacturing reduced the shelf life of an injectable product by 12 months (from 24 down to 12). Well, given how long it took to get the product out to hospitals through the distribution chain, we figured we had only 9 months shelf life. Well, it sat in a quarantine while we tried to figure out what our options were. By the time we made a decision, we were like down to 6 months life. We had to scrap about $40 million dollars of product, even though we actually considered having a fire sale with hospitals, but there’s a problem there with Medicare reimbursement (it forces down the Average Market Price, which fixes reimbursement for the following quarters at a lower price). So whenever someone says “Big Pharma makes boatloads of money”, well, yeah, but we spend boatloads of money. Not the point, I suppose.

    Believe it or not, product development teams spend almost as much time on packaging, sterilization and shelf life as they do on various clinical trials (it’s not done serially, it’s usually in parallel).

    Personally, I never ever ever use expired pharmaceuticals (I’m a bit more flexible on devices, but physicians usually don’t). I know how drugs deteriorate, sometimes rapidly, and that it may disassociate into compounds that may not have the intended effect or, worse yet, have an unintended effect. I throw out OTC products along with any prescriptions at the expiration date. But I want to give more money to Big Pharma!

    @djhollen. NO EFFING WAY. Maybe a month. But a year? Advair is very sensitive to moisture, and moisture proof packaging can fail. But really, I would never ask a question like that on the internet. I’d contact the customer service line of manufacturer who will answer your question directly. Then ask them about GlaxoSmithKline about their programs for low income individuals. You should be able to get the product for free, though almost any health insurance should pay for it.

  22. mousethatroared says:

    Regarding disposal, I once had to dispose of some unused antibiotic, probably without much thought, I flushed them down the toilet, only to realize seconds latter that feeding antibiotics to our septic system may not be the best idea. In fact, it’s not a good idea. We were able to flush some treatment that adds bacteria back into the system (the septic system version of yogurt I guess) and all appeared to be fine.

    Now I try to be a bit more meticulous in my drug disposal habits, the FDA has a pretty good write up.
    http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm

    As an aside, my understanding is homeopathic arnica tablets usually have no actual arnica in them (barring manufacture error), but “homeopathic” arnica salve often does (check the label). So one would want to treat the salve as an herbal remedy.

  23. chaos4zap says:

    I have a question that is a bit off topic. In this article, it was specifically mentioned that Echinacea has no good evidence to support its ability to prevent or treat colds. I am the proud owner of “Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine”. This book seems to be fairly well researched and I reference it often when I have a question about a specific alternative treatment. In the book, they provide a chart that list some of the more common alternative treatments and a rating for each one based on the current (as of writing the book) state of research into efficacy. They also take the responsible step of pointing out that even if an alternative treatment has evidence to support its efficacy, this doesn’t mean that there are not other interventions that are more effective and that there are still side effects and interactions that are not well known to be concerned about. In this chart, they list the evidence supporting the efficacy of Echinacea as “Good”, which seems to be in stark contrast to saying that there is no compelling evidence that it works at all. My dilemma is that I have two sources (The book’s Authors and SBM) who’s opinion and logical approach I respect and they seem to be at odds with one another. Is the research and analysis provided in the book not to be trusted? Has there been a number of studies since the book was published that pushed the evidence for Echinacea more in the negative direction? I don’t take Echinacea and am as critical as the next when it comes to the alt med non-sense, I’m just trying to make sense of the discrepancy between two sources that both seem to use critical analysis of the evidence to inform their conclusions. Anyone that may have some insight….it would be greatly appreciated.

  24. Harriet Hall says:

    @chaos4zap,

    Echinacea: there are positive and negative studies, and evaluating them is complicated because they aren’t all studying the same preparations. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates Echinacea as “possibly effective.” A Cochrane review was less than enthusiastic: “some” evidence that it “might” be effective http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16437427 If it is effective, the effect is small and may not be clinically significant. My personal take on the evidence is that it doesn’t show Echinacea to be effective, but there is still room for legitimate disagreement. Ernst was more favorable to herbal remedies in his earlier writings, but his thinking has evolved to question some of his earlier judgments. As usual, no black and white answers. Isn’t medicine frustrating?

  25. AudreyII says:

    When I was in school (about 15 years ago), we were told to return all expired drugs to the pharmacy and I was shocked to find out that they dispose of most of them through the garbage. Nowadays it’s officially recommended to bypass the pharmacy and just throw expired drugs away. (I live in Germany).

    @Michael Simpson: thank you for a very interesting comment.

    [...] trying to make sure that when screwing on the needle (one needle per injection, or so we hoped), it did not introduce contamination–we actually had to test how long the resealable rubber like “closure” will last. [...]

    I’ve been trying to convince my grandmother for years that she needs to change the needle every time – to no avail. She explains this by telling me she’s “saving her insurance some money” (I think the needles are the least expensive thing she needs). The “problem” is that – except for bruises and some pain when injecting the insulin because the needles are blunt – she hasn’t had any ill effects (or so she says). I also had to force her to change the lancet of her lancing device and she’s still a bit mad with me for it. I hope I won’t be so stubborn when I’m her age.

  26. Alia says:

    Thanks for your very informative article, it will be really helpful next time I check my medicinal drawer and see something slightly past its expiry date.
    Over here, in Poland, we usually get our medicines in their original packaging (tablets mostly in blisters), they are not repackaged by the pharmacy and my medicinal drawer is dry, dark and mostly cool. I suppose in such situation the deterioration will be slower.

  27. chaos4zap says:

    @ Harriet Hall,

    Thank you for the response Harriet. Yes, it certainly can be frustrating…but in many ways, that is what I enjoy about it. Medicine is perhaps the best example of uncertainty and of how scientific progress works. Nothing is easy and knowledge is not just given, it is earned. While some find uncertainty unnerving, I prefer to think of it as a type of micro-evolution of the human species. Instead of random mutations, we have ideas….some good and some bad. Only the fittest and more effective ideas make it through the scientific process (at least, that is how it should be). While evolution can’t learn from its mistakes (i.e. “Evolution” has no ability to remember that a certain mutation was not beneficial in a certain circumstance, and so the mutation may re-occur and once again, not be beneficial), we have the ability to recognize, through prior plausibility and evidence, rather or not a certain idea or intervention has a reasonable chance of being fruitful. It absolutely amazes me that the primary function that separates us from the animals, consciousness and the ability to reason, is under-utilized and in some cases flat out ignored.

  28. Calli Arcale says:

    One of the more amusing examples of meaningless expiration dates comes from bottled water. As some regulatory bodies in some countries require everything be marked with an expiration date, bottled water usually gets the industry standard two years, even though water is unlikely to degrade to anything else, and if properly bottled, should last almost indefinitely as long as the bottle remains sealed. (Indeed, if a real expiration date were put on water, rather than the arbitrary two years, it would probably relate more to the bottle than the water, since plastic bottles can degrade.

  29. Morticia says:

    I keep my meds out of the bathroom (too much moisture) and store in their original containers (to keep track of the expiry) in a dresser drawer. I rarely use anything, but I have asthma that kicks in when I get a cold. In Ontario, I had some upper respiratory infection every 6 to 8 weeks. In BC, I haven’t had a sniffle in 3 years. I forgot I had asthma.

    Recently, I spent two weeks in Ontario visiting family and friends, and came down with congestion and a cough. The asthma meds I had in my drawer? Out of date and not much left. And it’s the long weekend. What to do? You guessed it… take the meds until I can see the doctor. But by that time, I’ll be healthy again and not need the prescription. Unfortunately, prescriptions held at the pharmacist’s expire after a year, at least in BC. Yes, I understand the need to keep the doc in the loop, but why I can’t have a “permanent” prescription for a permanent condition is beyond me.

  30. mrsdahmer says:

    TO FATBOB; YES!, the salycylic acid in aspirin is the very same as found in wart remover, as well as some acne creams and even certain dandruff shampoo. although i would not consume any of these products for a headache.

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