Does medicine re­ally ex­pire?

Science Illustrated - - ASK US -

The health au­thor­i­ties re­quire phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to la­bel their drugs with an ex­piry date, so con­sumers can be sure that the med­i­ca­tion is still ef­fi­cient and has not been con­verted into toxic sub­stances.

Con­se­quently, drug­mak­ers test the dura­bil­ity of the med­i­ca­tion by stor­ing it as re­quired and check­ing its ef­fect reg­u­larly. The ex­per­i­ments rarely go on for more than two years. If so, drug­mak­ers in­di­cate a du­ra­tion of two years on the pack­ag­ing, although the con­tents might be durable for much longer. DRUGS CAN RE­MAIN EF­FI­CIENT FOR DECADES Stud­ies have shown that painkillers, an­ti­his­tamines, and seda­tives can re­main ef­fi­cient for 30-40 years. The dura­bil­ity of liq­uid mix­tures, oint­ments, and cream is shorter than “dry” drugs like as­pirin. In the US, hos­pi­tals scrap nearly a bil­lion dol­lars worth of drugs each year.

Pills are usu­ally much more durable than the ex­piry date indicates.

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