You had a delicious dinner but could not digest. You feel slight discomfort, and you straight away head to the medicine box at home. Here's when you realise that the medicine expired a month ago. What should you do in this case? In most cases, people throw expired medications thinking of its side effects on the body. Drugs in our country are regulated by the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945. Regulations dictate that every drug should have a written date of expiry of the potency or effect of the drug, indicating the date for which the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug. At the time of expiry, the drug should have at least 90% of its original strength under proper storage conditions, according to US standards. The expiry date certainly does not indicate that a drug has suddenly become toxic.
A study conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the request of the US Army concluded that over 100 drugs sold both on prescription and in the open market. Out of these, over 90 per cent of the drugs were fit for use even after 15 years of its expiry. But, there are exceptions. There are drugs whose stability and potency decreases more rapidly. These include nitroglycerin, insulin, liquid antibiotics.
Effect Of Medicines
The potency of medicines starts decreasing from the moment it is manufactured. This is known as 'Drug Decay'. Therefore, your medicine does not become unfit to be used at any specific point of time. Contrary to common belief, there is hardly any scientific evidence that expired drugs become toxic and therefore harmful.
Also Read: Beware of Antibiotics Resistance: All you need to know about It
Do Not Take Life Saving Medicines After Expiry
Certain drugs, such as Dilantin, an anti-epileptic drug, and nitroglycerin, a very commonly used anti-anginal drug, should not be used after their expiry date. Oral contraceptives, eye drops and insulin also fall under the category of similar drugs. Some live vaccines should also not be used after the expiry date. Follow these points while considering which medicine to eat:
- Condition of the Drug: Consume a drug only when it looks fine. Broken tablets, Discoloured injection fluid, soft capsules should not be used. Never take any medicine that looks suspicious in any way.
- Storage conditions: Medicines do not retain their effectiveness if they are not stored at the specified temperature.
- Dose formulation: Liquids are less durable than tablets and capsules.
Also Read: Urinary Tract Infections and the impact of Antibiotic Resistance
Doctors and pharmacists are bound by the law and will never officially advise you to use expired medicines. Dr Ashwini Setia is a gastroenterologist and program director at Max Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi says, " The label "Best Before Use" has very slight scientifically proven. So for headaches, acidity, cold or constipation, you can take expired pills without any apprehension. Except in sporadic cases, you are not likely to be harmed and be assured that even if the medicine harms, it will not become poisonous."
Wondering what to do with expired medicines stocked at home? Follow these simple steps for safe disposal:
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