Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Drug Expiration Dates

Dr. Joseph Mercola answered a question I've been wondering about for some time: How long do stored medications remain effective? Is it okay taking a medication if it's two years past its expiration date?

Some of you might recognize the name. Joseph Mercola is the guy who started and bankrolled Prop 37- the GMO labeling initiative. A contrarian who often preaches against commonly held medical doctrine (he rants against vaccinations, as I recall), his advice needs to be looked at closely. Still, he told me pretty much what I wanted to know.

I'd get a cold and go look for my favorite cold remedy, Alka Selter Plus Cold. I usually hadn't taken any in some time. The last time the expiration date was two years earlier. Should I be taking this? Will it work? Hard to tell even after you take some. Sometimes it seems to help and sometimes it doesn't.

I ended up asking the pharmacist at Henderson Center Rite- Aid that question: Is it ok to take something like Alka Seltzer Plus Cold that's two years past its expiration date. I wanted to know if it would still be effective. He didn't really answer the question. He just said, "You really should buy some fresh". About what I would expect.

Turns out, according to Mercola, drugs are often useful for years after their supposed expiration date and the expiration dates are arbitrarily set by the drug companies. There are some exceptions: Nitroglycerin, insulin and liquid antibiotics are three that don't keep well. Many other drugs still had effective amounts of their active ingredient left even after decades of proper storage.

That's not cast in stone as there is varying degrees of degradation with various drugs, but at least I can take my two year old Alka Seltzer Plus Cold without feeling as though I'm doing something wrong.


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