Let’s get right to it. Your medicine cabinets look just like mine. If one equals none than its stands to reason that you have extra meds. You may even have some meds that don’t apply to anyone in your home. For me there are two motivations for having “too much” OTC medication around.
OTC – Over the Counter
- If my family needs relief or medical aid in a time when the shelves have gone bare and the doctors have gone to New Zealand I want to be prepared
- When loved ones are sick, there is little they won’t part with to get that medicine. It’s one of the most powerful bartering tools available.
Because your stockpile will most likely expire, let’s explore the full story on expired medications.
In fact, good health is well worth an expiring medicine cabinet. Still, you want to be able to put these meds to use and like everything else in your stockpile you should know whether these medicines are safe to use or not. Let’s take the guesswork out of medications.
The FDA Ruling is 30+ Years Old
The FDA instituted expiration dates on medicines way back in 1979. These dates were put on for public safety but I would also argue, as with most expirations dates, for turnover. You see when food or products “expire” you get to throw them out and go by new ones and that means $$ for the producers of those products. It’s a little diabolical but in the name of public health who can argue it, right?
Expiration dates also help with litigation. You see, going into business gets riskier every day. The tapeworm of America is the tort lawyer and they are hungry to attack medications and their effects. These lawyers have driven the price of health care through the roof. Expiration dates give the medicine companies protection if meds are taken after that date and something goes wrong.
So, what does, something goes wrong, mean?
With Most Medications, It’s A Matter Of Potency Not Poison
This is the issue with OTC and Prescription medications. When they age, they are subject to a loss in potency. We see the same effect in vitamins if you need a comparable. Some of those old vitamins on sale are little more than cellulose. A similar effect happens with your meds at home.
So where is the danger?
Compensating for the lowered potency brings about risks of its own, says Jennifer Adams, PharmD, EdD, a spokesperson for the APhA and the senior director of strategic academic partnerships at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. If an expired medication is now only 90 percent effective, some patients might just assume it’s safe to take two pills instead of one, or three instead of two, she says. “You aren’t really sure in terms of how much you’re going to be getting, and you could potentially be getting too much … That’s when it can be very dangerous.” (Source)
Potency is also incredibly important when you talk about life saving drugs. Drugs that lower blood pressure, stop heart attacks help with diabetes or asthma to name a few. If the efficacy of these drugs drops and you are depending on them to save your life, well, you’re going to die or overdose to compensate.
Understanding the Governments Position
Though it’s easy to curse the government for their “over regulation” they have the duty of looking out for 300 million people. They are tasked with making decisions that will protect the lot of us, even those who aren’t too smart, while still allowing us the liberties and freedoms we demand. It’s not an easy task.
Without government regulation, the earth would be void of resources and many more people would die. It may seem like over kill and there is some treachery involved in the expiration decree but it protects people and businesses.
SLEP/ SHELF LIFE EXTENSION PROGRAM
SLEP was a study conducted by the FDA for the U.S military. It found that most meds stored in exceptional conditions could last up to 5 ½ years past the expiration date. This study was conducted on OTC meds and prescriptions. It found common drugs like Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, allergy meds and even various prescriptions like opioids maintain 90% potency over the duration of the study.
This means most medications will last beyond their expiration date.
Still, the FDA utilized serious conditions for storage. Specially cooled facilities were used to store the meds over the 5 years. To me it would make sense that as meds begin to age move them into the fridge as this is your best version of a cool dry place.
Not all meds hold up past the expiration:
EpiPen: This is a one-shot deal that could mean life or death. If you have no other option, of course, it will help but you put yourself or your family at serious risk using a less effective/expired EpiPen.
Aspirin: Normal aspirin and aspirin containing medicines lost their potency quickly and became ineffective shortly after expiration.
Amphetamines: The same was true of Amphetamines and meds containing them.
Antibiotics: Using degenerated antibiotics will only strengthen the bacteria you are fighting. Therefore, you must run the full course. Do not take expired antibiotics. Here are the only 4 antibiotics you’ll need when SHTF.
Life and Death Prescriptions: Never play around with expiration dates on meds that must work efficiently to save your life. Like the EpiPen there is no margin for error.
- The government has determined expiration dates to both keep us safe from making bad decisions and to help manufactures and retailers on turnover.
- Most meds will be fine past the best buy date. Store your meds in a cool dry place and if they get close to aging out move them to the fridge.
- If you have the means just replace them.
- Some meds will not hold up over time.
- Do not risk using expired, lifesaving medications.