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Expiration dates on medicine
Old 10-24-2009, 10:45 AM   #1
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Expiration dates on medicine

I was wondering if expiration dates are more or less a scam by the pharmaceutical companies to get people to toss out perfectly good medicine to go and buy more. Now I understand some medicines might break down or lose some effectiveness over time (I wouldn't take 2 year old heart medicine), but it would seem that some items last much longer than advertised.

If it's not a scam, are they just being over cautious due to possible lawsuits and put early expiration dates even though they know the effectiveness is longer?

I'd be interested to know what the deal is.
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Old 10-24-2009, 10:59 AM   #2
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Let me google that for you

Good question. One that I have often had also.
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Old 10-24-2009, 11:30 AM   #3
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If everybody just Googled their questions, forums would become less interesting and have half the content. It's the responses (such as yours) that makes forum posting fun.

But thanks, this was a good answer.
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:18 PM   #4
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My rules of thumb for this subject are:

1. Prescription drugs to be ingested - follow the expiration date to the letter or maybe 2 months beyond.
2. Topical Prescriptions (ointments, ear drops) - exp date + 6 months.
3. OTC drugs to be ingested - exp date + 6 months.
4. OTC external topical substances - exp date + 6 months or more. If greater than 6 months, I will try a "test patch" on my skin to see if it is still effective and has not chemically changed to something nasty. If it is something for mucous membranes or sensitive areas , exp date + 6 months.

Seasonal things like cold remedies are cheaper in larger packages, but I rarely use them up before the exp date, now that I'm FIREd. I cringe to think about all the OTC cold and pain relief stuff I used to have to take when I was w*rking.
I was sick almost all the time. I had a lot of chronic pain.
Not anymoooooooooooore .
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:25 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by freebird5825 View Post
My rules of thumb for this subject are:

1. Prescription drugs to be ingested - follow the expiration date to the letter or maybe 2 months beyond.
2. Topical Prescriptions (ointments, ear drops) - exp date + 6 months.
3. OTC drugs to be ingested - exp date + 6 months.
4. OTC external topical substances - exp date + 6 months or more. If greater than 6 months, I will try a "test patch" on my skin to see if it is still effective and has not chemically changed to something nasty. If it is something for mucous membranes or sensitive areas , exp date + 6 months.
I noticed my linky no worky above (works if you straight Google, but not linking to it), so I copied some of the interesting points below. May make you re-think the time limits, maybe not. It's written by a doctor Thomas A. M. Kramer, MD on the website Medscape, part of WebMD.

One of the largest studies ever conducted that supports the above points about "expired drug" labeling was done by the US military 15 years ago, according to a feature story in the Wall Street Journal (March 29, 2000), reported by Laurie P. Cohen. The military was sitting on a $1 billion stockpile of drugs and facing the daunting process of destroying and replacing its supply every 2 to 3 years, so it began a testing program to see if it could extend the life of its inventory. The testing, conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ultimately covered more than 100 drugs, prescription and over-the-counter. The results showed that about 90% of them were safe and effective as far as 15 years past their original expiration date.

In light of these results, a former director of the testing program, Francis Flaherty, said he concluded that expiration dates put on by manufacturers typically have no bearing on whether a drug is usable for longer. Mr. Flaherty noted that a drug maker is required to prove only that a drug is still good on whatever expiration date the company chooses to set. The expiration date doesn't mean, or even suggest, that the drug will stop being effective after that, nor that it will become harmful. "Manufacturers put expiration dates on for marketing, rather than scientific, reasons," said Mr. Flaherty, a pharmacist at the FDA until his retirement in 1999. "It's not profitable for them to have products on a shelf for 10 years. They want turnover."

Edit: Bold type done by me.
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:28 PM   #6
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I think it's a valid RE topic as some folks could possibly be saving thousands by using their expired medicines.
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:31 PM   #7
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This sounds reasonable to me. I think food expiration labels have the same safety margin for processed foods.

There is a store near my SD's home that sells nearly expired food goods and I've never had a problem with any thing purchased there.
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:38 PM   #8
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I think food expiration labels have the same safety margin for processed foods.
Again Let me google that for you

This another great question -- that I have had many times. (I was told by a Niece that Dairy products are particularly sensitive to expiration/sell-by dates.)

BTW, I am entering the Google searches to extend the conversation not end it.
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:47 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by RonBoyd View Post
Again Let me google that for you
...

BTW, I am entering the Google searches to extend the conversation not end it.
The "let me Google that for you" is pretty cool - and I bookmarked it a few weeks ago after following one of your links - but it does have kind of a snarky "there, was that so hard?" comment that pops up after the search completes. I'm sure that is the site's snarkiness, not yours, but it is a bit off-putting. The cool thing is it shows the search terms used -
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Old 10-24-2009, 12:50 PM   #10
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BTW, I am entering the Google searches to extend the conversation not end it.
You have a fan club here.
I'm still mesmerized by the animated cursor and auto-typing into the search text slot.

I just laughed at the snarky message once I came to.
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Old 10-24-2009, 01:12 PM   #11
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I swear milk goes bad exactly on the expiration date. I never can use milk up on time.

As far a drugs, the one thing that my doctor told me when we talked about expiration dates was not to use asthma inhalers past that date. I have a tendency to stockpile that kind of drug so I now be sure to use the oldest first.
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Old 10-24-2009, 01:15 PM   #12
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I have a bottle of vicodin I got prescribed a couple of years ago when I had a kidney stone, and this bottle in always in my tavel bag. I couldn't imagine not having the help of vicodin if I had another kidney stone, say, while I was camping in the woods far away from everything.

I always felt the drugs probably stayed fresh for a long long time ... kind of like twinkies - full of chemicals.
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Old 10-24-2009, 05:04 PM   #13
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I swear milk goes bad exactly on the expiration date. I never can use milk up on time.

As far a drugs, the one thing that my doctor told me when we talked about expiration dates was not to use asthma inhalers past that date. I have a tendency to stockpile that kind of drug so I now be sure to use the oldest first.
I had the same problem, then I found a brand that was processed locally. Because there is less travel time to the store from the plant, the expiration dates are longer. Interestingly, the milk tastes better than the other brands with shorter expiration dates.

It is a bit more expensive, but I'm willing to chip in the extra quarter for better taste.

-- Rita
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Old 10-24-2009, 06:18 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by tmm99 View Post
I have a bottle of vicodin I got prescribed a couple of years ago when I had a kidney stone, and this bottle in always in my tavel bag. I couldn't imagine not having the help of vicodin if I had another kidney stone, say, while I was camping in the woods far away from everything.

I always felt the drugs probably stayed fresh for a long long time ... kind of like twinkies - full of chemicals.
I have a bottle of prescription dope from when I had some fairly serious back problems, that I keep it in my travel bag as well....just in case I'm hundreds of miles away from home and need some instant relief!
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Old 10-24-2009, 07:11 PM   #15
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Ron - lol.

I've often had the same question, it seems like a rather amazing coincidence that most prescription drugs expire in exactly the time it takes the earth to revolve once around the sun.
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Old 10-24-2009, 09:04 PM   #16
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The expiration date on medication is the date up to which the drug is guaranteed to be effective and safe because the manufacturer has tested it for that time period. Beyond that time period, no studies have been done to prove its potency.
However, the US military reportedly has tested many common medications beyond their supposed shelf life and the vast majority of non-liquid meds were still effective. However, some were not.
Tamiflu's expiration date has been extended in the US and even longer in Europe.
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Old 10-26-2009, 08:29 PM   #17
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First, let me say that I am a little embarrassed that my first post in eons at my favorite retirement forum, the one I peruse 365 days a year, is going to be about...the shelf life of my percocets. It's just that this topic is timely to me, and I am feeling internet-erly social and verbiose.

I too have always wondered about the validity of the expiration dates on the med bottle, mainly because I am a cheapskate, and if I have leftovers, I'd rather just be able to use them if the ailment returns, and not have to bother with a new trip to the doctor. I tend to interpret the "real" expiration to be at least 2 years after the date typed on the bottle, at least for non-life-threatening ailmenst like pain, rashes, gastric things, infections. I also try to use my meds minimally so that I will have "leftovers", in case that thing I needed them for to begin with, returns.

About my percocets - I had a hip replacement in June, and was presecribed a "poopload" of percocets, which is a drug I have not previously been introduced to. I find them to be delightfully pleasant, and my 'leftovers' are bountiful, so I intend to keep this stash for future entertainment pain management, regardless of the exp. date.
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Old 10-26-2009, 08:44 PM   #18
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Queeneev---very entertaining post! I couldn't agree more. I have some Vicodins tucked away from a dental procedure and am saving them lest a future possible root canal rear it's ugly head.
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Old 10-26-2009, 08:46 PM   #19
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I don't use any drugs (prescription or OTC) that have gone beyond the expiration date. I just can't do it!
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Old 10-27-2009, 12:58 AM   #20
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OOC, do illegal drugs have expiry dates?
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