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Is It Safe to Take Expired Prescription Medicines?

Is it alright to take expired prescriptions or will it be harmful?

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Taking expired medications is generally a concern. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are obliged to present an expiration date on all their drugs, and consumers must properly store these to ensure quality. If you regularly take a certain medication, consuming it when it is past its expiration date will not really cause life-threatening effects, but you cannot guarantee if it is still effective. Expired drugs may not possess the same strength and potency as with their unexpired counterparts.

The Food and Drug Administration conducted studies on expired medications that are properly stored. It was found out that only few medicines like insulin and liquid antibiotics were rendered ineffective when expired. On the other hand, most medicines have actually maintained acceptable effectiveness for at least 5 years to 10 years.

Meanwhile, only a few types of medications were found to be dangerous. An expired tetracycline formulation, for instance, may cause considerable liver disease, but fortunately this drug is not commonly dispensed anymore. Nevertheless, there is still some risk in taking expired drugs, just like when taking medications for the wrong reasons. If you have an eye infection, for instance, you must only take antibiotics prescribed by your doctor, and take the right dose at the right time as instructed.

You must also avoid taking antibiotics more than what is recommended. Self-medicating carries with it a considerable risk, and many medical experts do not fully approve of it. In this case, you should consult your physician to come up with the best pharmacologic therapy to alleviate your medical problem.

For expired sleep medications, pain killers or tranquilizers, taking them might be acceptable in dire cases of emergency, although there is a chance that their effectiveness may not be as strong. It may not be life-threatening to take pain killers past their expiration dates, especially if you are unable to rush to the hospital. Nevertheless, if you feel that you have a new medical problem, it is still best to check with your physician to ask for changes in your drug therapy.

Ultimately, expired medications should only be taken as a last resort, and for medical indications other than what they were prescribed for. Emergency settings may be an exception, but make it a point to check with a physician or pharmacist to establish the safety of a certain drug. This is especially true for patients in respiratory distress, because using an expired inhaler is better than none at all. In fact, even the government keeps nearly expired drugs, just in case an outbreak or a national calamity takes place.

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