A Medication’s Expiration Date Should Be Taken Seriously

Medication should be disposed of properly to reduce temptation, harm

DAYTON, Ohio (August 13, 2018) – Have you ever reached for a bottle of medicine only to discover it’s expired and then went on to wonder why?

Drug manufacturers have been required to stamp an expiration date on their products since 1979. This is the last date on which the company can guarantee the full potency and safety of its medication, according to a report by Harvard Medical School. 

Someone who grabs an expired Tylenol or Motrin to ward off a growing headache will likely not experience anything more than frustration over unresolved symptoms. But expiration dates on many other medications may carry a risk for more serious consequences if ingested, according to Jennifer Romaker, FNP, with Fairfield Road Physician Office.

“The chemical composition of medication can break down so the expiration date and the way a medication is stored are both very important,” said Ms. Romaker, a nurse practitioner who practices with Premier Physician Network. “For example, if you take an expired antibiotic for an infection, it likely won’t fight off the infection and may make the infection even worse to the point where it then requires IV antibiotics through a hospital stay.”

Properly disposing of expired medication is extremely important for many reasons. Understand how to dispose of them and why having them lying around the house can be dangerous.

Crush it; don’t flush it – Flushing medication down the toilet may seem like the easiest solution, but it’s not the best. Instead, place the medication in a disposable bag that can be sealed. Place the medication in the bag and crush it. Then use a substance like dirt, cat litter or coffee grounds to cover the medication. Dispose of the sealed bag in the trash. 

Without a trace – Pills aren’t the only thing that needs to be handled properly. Prescription medication bottles contain a lot of personal information including the type of medication the bottle once held and the address of the person to which it was prescribed. Tear up the label or use a permanent marker to block out the important information. 

Look for partners – The community often provides opportunities for medication disposal. This can be a great solution for those who feel uncomfortable disposing of it themselves. Local law enforcements often hold “Take Back” days, and pharmacies also offer ways to dispose of medication. Additionally, Premier Health offers 24/7 disposal options for unused opioids, with medication receptacles installed at many hospital locations.

Eliminate the temptation – Dispose of medication as soon as you discover it has expired or if extra medication remains after you have been instructed to stop taking it. Medication that sits around on shelves or in medicine cabinets only serves as a temptation to take it at a later date. Pain medication can also be a harmful temptation for others who come into your home, such as minors.

Don’t be afraid to reach out – Consider your health care providers as your partners and don’t be afraid to be honest if you have taken expired medication. Make an appointment or call into your primary care provider’s office if you have discovered you have taken expired medication and either don’t see your condition improving or feel as if it is getting worse.

“Call your provider and just say, ‘I took this medication and it’s expired. What should I do?’” Ms. Romaker said. “We may say you need to come in and be evaluated so that we can make sure nothing more serious is wrong. But in most cases, everything will be okay."

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