The expiration date of a drug is the date by which it can be used. It is indicated on the outer carton and container of the medicine (for example, on the vial of drops and syrups, on the tube of creams or on the edge of the blister of tablets).
Usually, there are 2 digits to indicate the month and 4 digits for the year mm-yyyy (e.g. 09-2018 to mean September 2018). If the day is not specified, the drug can be used until the end of the month indicated.
The expiry date is printed on the package by the pharmaceutical company that produced the medicine and may be preceded by the following words:
- Expiration date
The writing appears on the drug box The expiry date refers to the product in intact packaging, correctly stored. The wording intact packaging indicates that the packaging of the drug must be in the same condition as when it was purchased, must be closed and undamaged. A drug is properly stored if the instructions on the box are respected (for example: keep in the fridge).
If no storage conditions are indicated, it is sufficient not to expose the drug to:
- temperatures above normal environmental conditions or near heat sources (radiator)
- direct sunlight
- excessive humidity, i.e. higher than normal ambient humidity
Once the package has been opened to use the medicine, it must be closed properly. Then the drug can be stored until its expiration date for later use unless the duration after opening the package is indicated. This information is given in the package leaflet in the section indicating how to store the medicine. In this case, the day on which the medicine can still be used must be calculated and discarded the next day It is advisable to note this new expiry date on the package.
In the event that, taking a dose of a medicine, for example a tablet from a blister, the closure of another is compromised, the one with the closure no longer intact must be discarded.
In the case of liquids or powders to be used in single doses (for example eye drops) it is important that any residual medicinal product left in the single package used is eliminated.What to do when a drug has expired
What to do when a drug has expired
The expiry date of the medicines is proposed by the company that markets the drug and is authorized by the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) or by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the basis of stability studies conducted on each drug. used to carry out these tests are governed by international guidelines that are followed in Europe, the United States and Japan and in several other countries around the world.
After the expiration date:
- the substances contained in the drug could undergo chemical modifications, resulting in the formation of potentially toxic products for the body. This phenomenon is said degradation and the products that can be formed are said impurities of degradation
- the amount of active ingredient may decrease, with loss of effectiveness of the drug itself
The degradation impurities contained in the medicine, if present in quantities above certain limits, could also endanger the person's life, for example following an allergic reaction.
For this reason, the use of medicines after the expiration date is a practice not to be followed.
The American Drug Control Agency (FDA) carried out a study on medicines stored by their armed forces. The analyzes showed that several medicines had retained, after expiration, characteristics that could be used. This study generated the " idea in some commentators that in general eliminating drugs after the expiration date was useless and indeed a real waste. The study carried out by the FDA only shows that some specific batches of some certain drugs are still usable. From this it certainly cannot be deduced that in general, all batches of all drugs can be used after their expiration.
The use of medicines after the expiration date is therefore strongly discouraged, given the possible, serious consequences due to the possible formation of impurities or the decrease in the quantity of active ingredient contained which could cause the ineffectiveness of the medicine.
Finally, it is emphasized that it is not possible to rely on the absence of a change in smell, color or taste of a medicine to believe that it can be used after its expiry since the majority of the modifications that can occur do not cause changes in smell, color or taste. .
Therefore, if you happen to use an expired drug, it is advisable to contact your doctor and, if particular problems appear, go to the nearest emergency room.Disposal of an expired drug
Disposal of an expired drug
- they must not be dispersed in the environment, because they can be a source of pollution
- they should not be thrown in the trash or the toilet, because they can spread in soils and waters
- they should not be burned, because their combustion could develop harmful substances
Instead, they must be disposed of in special containers prepared inside (or outside) pharmacies, intended to receive all types of medicines.Bibliography
Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA). Medicines: why it is important to respect the expiration dateIn-depth link
Lyon RC, Taylor JS, Porter DA, Prasanna HR, Hussain AS. Stability profiles of drug products extended beyond labeled expiration dates. [Synthesis] Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2006; 95: 1549-60