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medication expiration date

How long can medication be used after the expiration date?

It’s happened to all of us hasn’t it? You catch a cough or cold and reach for the cold remedies in your medicine cabinet only to find the cough syrup or cold pills you both 2 years ago has expired and you ask yourself, “Is this stuff still going to work?”.

Generally speaking, except for certain prescription medicines such as nitroglycerin, insulin, and liquid antibiotics, most medicines stored under reasonable conditions will retain at least 70% to 80% of their original potency for at least 1 to 2 years after the expiration date, even after the container has been opened.

Where do I find the medication expiration date? All drug manufacturers are required to print or stamp an expiration date on their products. On over the counter (OTC) medications, the expiration date is often printed on the box or carton under “EXP” or imprinted into the bottom of a bottle, carton, or the crimp of a tube.

Length of Medication Expiration Date

The expiration date is the date which the drug manufacturer can guarantee that the medicine is fully potent and safe to take based on product testing. But unlike the expiration dates on grocery products, the medication expiration dates are typically conservative to make sure you get what you paid for—a fully potent and safe medicine.

Although the effectiveness of a medicine may decrease over time, studies have shown* that much of the original potency still remains years after the medication expiration date however, it is still advisable to replace medicines that have expired years ago with a new supply to be sure you are using the most up-to-date product with the most up-to-date instructions for use.

As the flu season approaches it is wise to check your medicine cabinet now (while you’re still feeling well) and replace old and expired OTC cough and cold remedies to ensure you’ll get the best results. And please remember to Properly dispose unwanted and expired medications.

* Source – The Journal of the American Medical Association (a peer-reviewed medical journal published 48 times a year by the American Medical Association)

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Christopher Petersen

Christopher Petersen has over 25 years of experience in the Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) and Managed Care industries. Chris began his career developing pharmacy management software in the late 1980s and is a subject matter expert in pharmacy claims adjudication and discount drug card practices. He has extensive experience in PBM Sales, Account Management, and Client Services servicing Taft-Hartley groups, large and mid-sized employers, TPAs, and large payor organizations.




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