Advice from an expert: “If your medicine is expired, don’t use it”

March 6, 2017

generic RXIt’s the middle of the night, your throat is scratchy and your head aches. You rummage around in your medicine cabinet for something to help you feel better. You find a cold remedy, but notice the expiration date was two years ago.

Pharmacists say throw that package away.

If you take a headache pill or over-the-counter cold medicine months or even years past the expiration date, it’s unlikely to do you any harm but in some cases it can be risky, Mike Fossler with the American College of Clinical Pharmacology told National Public Radio.

Expired medications –including over-the-counter as well as prescription drugs – could have bacterial growth. Antibiotics may have lost their potency and fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses, warns the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The FDA offers the following tips for proper storing and disposal of your medications:

  1. Read the label: Some medications need to be stored in the refrigerator. Others cannot be exposed to high temperatures.
  2. Keep them cool and dry: If the label does not specify refrigeration, it’s best to store your medicine in a cool, dry place – rather than a damp bathroom cabinet.
  3. If you store your medications in the kitchen: Make sure to keep bottles away from hot appliances and the sink because changing temperatures and humidity can affect potency.
  4. Take advantage of Take-Back programs: Most communities have a place where residents can bring medications that have expired or are no longer needed. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration offers a website to help you find the approved location nearest you.
  5. If you do trash them: The FDA recommends mixing your unwanted meds with unappetizing household trash, such as dirt or kitty litter.

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