Like many people, even though I know how important it is to be cautious with expired medicines, I don’t take it seriously enough in my own life or in my communication to patients. To rectify this, I urge you to take a look at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s special feature article, “Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines” , which advises people to review their medications and dispose those prescription and over-the-counter drugs that have expired.
As stated in their article, the FDA notes that taking expired medications can be risky:
“Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance. “Once the expiration date has passed there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe and effective,” says Bernstein. “If your medicine has expired, do not use it.
Expired medicines are also not just a risk to the person they were prescribed for, and can injure children and pets if taken by mistake. For all these reasons, proper disposal of unneeded medicines is essential.”
Please read the article to learn the recommended disposal methods for medicines. The DEA coordinates an annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which addresses this vital public safety and public health issue by focusing attention on this important issue and reminding everyone to get rid of unneeded and outdated medicines.
As the article notes, “When drug take-back programs aren’t available, federal guidelines recommend throwing the medicines away in the household trash after mixing them with a substance like dirt or kitty litter and then sealing the mixture in a container (see graphic at right). However, certain medicines are specifically recommended for flushing down a toilet or sink because they could be especially harmful, even fatal, to a child, pet, or anyone else if taken accidentally. For a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing, as well as other information on proper disposal, please see the Disposal of Unused Medicines page.”
Please exercise caution and always store medications properly … and do not take any expired medications … it simply is not worth the risk!