Expired medications: can I take them?

"Do not use after the expiration date on the package"It is a clear message that comes to insist that this date stamped on the box and blister is not a mere whim, with it, the laboratory marks a before and after in the use of the drug. we have never noticed, but all medications, from the humblest analgesic to the most potent antibiotic, include this warning at the end of your leaflet.

Now, is it really dangerous to take a expired medication? What can happen to us if we ignore the warning? Do we take them or not? To help us decide, let us first look at what the laboratory wants us to say when setting an expiration date for a given lot. It is giving us a guarantee of activity and effectiveness: the guarantee that, at least until that date, the medicine will be in optimal conditions of use, explains Dr. Emilio Vargas, head of the Clinical Pharmacology Service of the San Carlos Clinical Hospital. It is not indicating to us that there is a deadline from which you can not use a drug, but, from that moment, the laboratory no longer guarantees that it is as effective.

Could it continue to be effective a few months later? "Possibly the expert continues, but the point is that, when you respect the expiration date, you have the certainty that you have not lost the activity of the medicine and no potentially toxic substances have appeared. Something very infrequent, but that is still possible. "That is, it is not only about whether the drug is still effective or not, but whether the passage of time even more if it is not kept in the right conditions can encourage come back toxic.

No more than six months

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With respect to its effectiveness, dr. Juan Gibert, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Cádiz, cautiously points out that "in general terms, may not happen anything to take an expired drug two months ago"And six months?" We are already in a potentially dangerous line. A paracetamol, an aspirin, are drugs that continue to be effective even three years later. "And an antibiotic?" Oh, I dare not say ..., "concludes this expert.

In your opinion, maybe we can relax with a current analgesice, an antidiarrheal, a cough syrup ... A popular advice circulating in the health community is that if your life depends on a drug, run to the pharmacy and do not use an expired one; If your life does not depend on it, you can take it and see what happens. And most likely, we repeat, whether nothing happens. In this sense, it is worth remembering a study published in 2012 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, in which a team of researchers from the University of California analyzed different drugs that had expired between 28 and 40 years ago.

The scientists, led by pharmacologist Lee Cantrell, decided to check if they had lost their effectiveness. After analyzing them, they saw that the vast majority of they still had at least 90% of their active ingredients. Cantrell is a leading advocate for laboratories to extend the expiration date of their products, especially in a world where medicines are not available to everyone. But, for this, laboratories should conduct long-term safety and efficacy studies not a year or two, and they do not seem to be on the job.

Toxicity hazard

However, it is one thing for the expired medication to continue to be more or less effective, and another thing that can be become toxic. The best-known example is that of tetracycline, an antibiotic that, if consumed after its expiration date, can cause a kidney disease known as Fanconi syndrome. Also, it has been seen that expired penicillin can produce hypersensitivity reactions, and that with insulin and liquid antibiotics should be especially rigorous.

But the matter has a second reading. As Professor Gibert indicates, an article like this would not make sense in other countries. Why? Because we are admitting an outrage: that we have expired medicines at home and that, in addition, we self-medicate. It would have to be done American: a prescription of so many tablets for so many days and not have to spare even a pill.


And this is a daily barbarity. According to a survey on the consumption habits of medicines and their rational use developed by Eroski Consumer, 77% of the respondents have medicines left over once they have finished the prescribed treatment, and one in two keeps them at home. Also, the 85% of hypertensive patients do not follow the treatment, and 20% of those who have suffered a heart attack leave it one month after hospital discharge. Only this way it is explained that we have at home very well stocked kits in which, unfortunately, they are expiring some medicines that, even after they have expired, they will continue to sing their siren songs so that we can continue taking them.

How to keep medicines

In order for a drug to remain optimal security conditions and efficacy until the expiration date, it must be properly preserved:

- It should be stored in a fresh and dry place, with constant temperature, without thermal oscillations. We must flee from heat sources, such as radiators, and drafts.

- It is not convenient to place them next to televisions or other household appliances, to avoid electromagnetic fields.

- The ideal is keep them in their original container, instead of taking them out to put them in little boats. Let's think that, if they come vacuum packed in a blister pack, it is to keep them well.

- If a pillbox to transport them, let it be for a few days. It is one thing to make the pillbox of the day and another the pillbox of the year.

- Medications that are altered by the action of heat are marked on the package with the Q symbol and its leaflet indicates whether they should be keep in the fridge, in the freezer...

- Within the nevera some antibiotics are saved and eye drops, as well as vaccines and insulins.


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Video: Is Expired Medication Safe for My Child? (April 2020).