How SAFE is It To Take Expired Medicine?

“It’s not right to take expired pills”, This is what you might have heard from many people around you. But have you ever wondered how SAFE is it to take expired medication?


Expiry date decides the fate of medicine, whether it will be thrown or used. Expired medicines are thrown, and remaining are kept for use. In other words, the Expiry date is the final date till that a manufacturer guarantees the safety and effectiveness of a medicine.

Manufacturers, to be on the safer side, will never recommend taking medication after the expiry date.

Also, these dates themselves say “do not use after…” or “discard after…” etc.

The constancy of a drug depends on its storage factors like heat, humidity, light or cold, etc. A stability test under good manufacturing practices by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides the expired date.

Many times people take expired medicines due to certain factors like lack of knowledge, high cost of medicines or lack of insurance.

An expired medicine may or may not respond well to the problem.  It can also prove to be toxic or make you sick like eating rotten food.

Took an Expired Medicine, What Now?

Fewer people know that expired medicines can be taken in some cases. It depends on the purpose of medicine made.

expired medicine
  • Solid form medicines like tablets and capsules seem most stable even after their expiry date. Drugs in the liquid form or which require refrigeration may not have much efficacy if used when outdated.
  • Painkillers are not harmful, if taken after expiry date but may not give results like an unexpired medicine.
  • Low potency can be a problem in treating an infection with an expired antibiotic. Medicines that looks cloudy, precipitant or gets discoloured should never be used.
  • Medicines like anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic can be used up to a few months only and that too under medical supervision.
  • Expired medicine that contains preservatives, such as ophthalmic (eye) drops may be unsafe for use after their expiry date is over.
  • EpiPen auto-injector is not safe to use after their expiry date as they play a crucial role in treating various allergic reactions to food, drugs, insect bites or other things. One can try in case of emergency only if the solution does not get discoloured, precipitates or becomes cloudy.
  • Medicines like Insulin used to control sugar levels, and Oral nitro-glycerine (NTG) used for treating chest pain are not advised to take after their expiry date.
  • Dried up ointment or creams, strong smell from medicines, Powdered or crushed medication should be discarded.

How to Increase the Efficacy of Medicines?

The place or the way medicines are stored can increase the efficacy of the medicines.

  • A medicine kept in the fridge is better than keeping in cupboards or bathrooms as they may lose their efficacy due to excess moisture, heat or humidity.
  • Do not leave your medicines in freezer, cars or glove box. It can change the effect of the medication on treatment.
  • Always keep the medicine bottle tightly closed.
  • Many medicines contain drugs that are harmful to kids and pets. Keep them away from pets and children.
expired medication

Intake of expired drugs can be risky. Also keeping expired medicine at home may affect the health of family member who may take it by mistake. It is also not safe to keep these drugs for kids and pets. If you are unsure about the medicine or what to do when expired, prefer to take advice from your physician rather than risking the life of your loved ones.

Hope this write-up must have cleared your doubts about side-effects and low-effects of expired medicine.  Always remember- ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’.

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