Medications expire because chemical changes to the drug over time may affect the stability or decrease the strength of the drug. An expiration date estimates when the potency of the drug falls below an acceptable limit set by the FDA. The expiration date may also be an estimate of when certain ingredients in the drug change and may be harmful to consume.
There is evidence that some medications may be safe to consume after the expiration date. Even though these may be safe to consume after the expiration date, the drugs may not be as effective due to decreased potency. Also, certain medications have very strict storage requirements and their expiration dates should be strictly followed. Medications that are liquid, like many children’s medications, should not be used past their expiration dates. Other medications that should not be used past their expiration dates include insulin, nitroglycerin, and antibiotics.
So, should I take expired medications?
Although there is evidence that some expired medications are safe to take, the FDA states that “once the expiration date has passed there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe and effective.”