The Shelf-Life Rules
Daily Express|October 27, 2020
The Shelf-Life Rules
You’ve got a splitting headache but the ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet is a year out of date. Do you take it, or don’t you? Michele O’Connor investigates
Michele O’Connor

Sticking to best-before dates on food labels is second nature, but when it comes to medication, we are far more sloppy. A third of us admit to clinging on to leftover pills, and a further third confess to using medication past its expiry date. But can doing this cause us any harm?

“Expiry dates are put in place after rigorous trials and controlled experiments to ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs,” explains Mike Wakeman, clinical pharmacist. “In short, they guarantee the potency of the medicine.”

Possible consequences of using expired medicines are that the active drug becomes chemically unstable; the effectiveness of the drug may change; the breakdown of the drug may be toxic and harmful to the patient; or there is raised risk of contamination from bacteria and other microbes.

Not all drugs deteriorate at the same rate. Liquid preparations usually have a shorter shelf life than tablets so, just like with food and drink, once the seal is broken, the process of “going off ” accelerates.

So even if a product is many years off its expiry date, you may only have a limited time to finish it once you use it for the first time.

Can I take out-of-date medicines?

Officially, pharmacists and medics agree that, to be on the safe side, you should never take drugs past their expiry date.


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October 27, 2020