Shelf life of prescription drugs

Although the majority of prescription drugs would indicate an expiration date, being able to determine the actual shelf life of prescription drugs is actually fairly difficult. You will, most likely, find that the majority of prescription drugs are still highly effective once the use by date has been passed. If you take into consideration the high costs involved with drugs and medication, many people still continue to use drugs well beyond their expiry date.

There is, in actual fact, a program known as “The Shelf Life Extension Program”. This program indicates that the majority of drugs, with very few exceptions, are still extremely effective and safe to use even if they have passed the manufacturers expiry date. It will obviously be of great benefit to you if you store any medication within the containers they come in. Many people even store their drugs in a refrigerator which can equally help to slow down any potential deterioration. This program first came about and was introduced by the FDA after the Department of Defense specifically asked for a study on the shelf life of prescription drugs. This is mainly due to the large stockpiles of very expensive prescription drugs which had gone beyond their expiry date.

As you may expect, if a container has not been opened the contents can still be considered to be at their best. Once you to open the container you are exposing it to many natural factors such as light and humidity. This, in turn, can cause the items to deteriorate and degrade. You will find that sensitive drugs such as liquid antibiotics, nitroglycerin and insulin will deteriorate at a far faster rate than drugs that come in a solid tablet form. It is extremely important to pay careful attention to the stated shelf life of these sensitive prescription drugs. This is especially true if they are being used to treat a life-threatening condition.

There have been certain studies that have proven that drugs are still highly effective long after their expiration date when they are stored under normal household conditions. There are even reports that drugs that were stored in bad conditions managed to retain their original properties for up to 9 years, and in some cases even longer. It is believed that the majority of drugs will still retain their potency for at least five years after the specified expiration date. However, with that being said, there has never been a realistic consumer oriented study on the actual shelf life of prescription drugs.

You will find that the majority of expiration dates on prescription drugs will typically run for one to five years after the date that they were manufactured. This, however, is considered to be a fairly conservative ideal. The FDA has proven within their studies that the majority of drugs, that even includes antibiotics and tranquillizers, are still highly effective for an additional five years.

It is believed that the costs involved are the reason that the expiry dates are so conservative. All manufacturers are liable to ensure that they keep batches of drugs that they have manufactured. These batches will typically be stored in proper conditions and will regularly have stability tests carried out on them. This is simply to ensure the quality of the drug is maintained over a long period of time. Manufacturers face many additional costs to maintain the storage and testing facilities of all these batches of drugs. Therefore, it is believed that it is far more cost-effective for the manufacturer to give the drug a shorter expiry date. This is why it is believed that the shelf life of prescription drugs may actually be a lot longer than we are led to believe.

If money is a factor and you have often considered taking some form of medication beyond the actual manufacturers expiry date, it is recommended that you discuss this thoroughly with your doctor first. You must remember that heat and humidity can cause drugs to deteriorate and may render them ineffective, therefore if you are ever unsure of how a drug has been stored, do not take it. The FDA has issued some simple advice on this matter and they believe that if you wish to extend the shelf life of any prescription drugs that you are best off storing them in your refrigerator.

Due to the high costs of prescription drugs many health insurers would like further tests and research to be conducted on this issue. If the results prove what many of us already believe, this could save both the consumer and insurers a considerable amount of money. However the costs of then educating the consumer about the use of these prescription drugs will also need to be taken into consideration.

Last updated on Jan 22nd, 2011 and filed under Drugs and Medications. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Shelf life of prescription drugs”

  1. Trudy says:

    Several years ago, I was taking Oxycontin 10MG CR Tab Purdue-PHA. I was taking them on a regular basis for very bad and frequent headaches; 20MG before bed and 10 MG in the morning. My headaches let up, so I quit taking the pills. I did refill my last refil in case I would need them in the future. I have about 150 – 10 MG pills. The date they were last filled were within 3-6 months of 11/29/2009. It is now as you know, June 11, 2011 and my Doctor just told me after running many tests and xrays and 1 year of very severe pain, that I have Spondylosis or degenerative spine disease or Severe arthritis of the spine starting at the base of my skull and down my buttocks, around to my groin and down the front of my legs to the bottom of my foot. Sometimes it is on just one side and other times it is on both sides. Very often, even if I just move wrong, I get very sharp and severe pains in my lower back. I can barely walk or sleep and the pain is as bad as kidney stones (I have had 8 in the past 6 years). What I want to know is can I still take the Oxycontin? My Doctor will not give any strong meds for the pain. She gave me Piroxicam 20MG Cap, one time per day. They do not help AT ALL!! I have both ulcers and reflux disease and I am taking Omeprazole CR 20MG cap 4-6 times a day and also taking Prozac 60 MG per day. Again, can I take the Oxycontin? I asked the Pharmasist at Wal-Mart and she said it only lasts for 6 months and I would get sivere liver disease if I took those pills. Is that true? I really need an answer due to being in so much pain!

    Best Regards,

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