What happens when you use expired medications?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When you’re buying milk or bread, you check the expiration date on the product, right?  But, when was the last time you checked the expiration date on the over-the-counter (OTC) medications you buy?

For weeks, News Channel 8 went to pharmacies, dollar stores and big box retailers, and checked expiration dates on OTC products. Most were printed with expiration dates in 2018 and 2019, but a few were set to expire within days. And in one instance, we were able to purchase a box of Children’s Motrin that was expired.

The FDA requires drug manufacturers to stamp expiration dates on products, as a guarantee of full potency and safety.

Retailers are expected to periodically go through store shelves and check for expired medications, or those that are close to their expiration date and remove them. Additionally, store clerks are supposed to check expiration dates at the point of sale. But, enforcing those expectations rarely occurs.

Pharmacist Alfred Aleguas, Managing Director of the Poison Control Center, says that while OTC medications aren’t dangerous when they expire, they can become less effective past the expiration date.

“The lack of efficacy may lead you to take more of the medicine, and so inadvertently you could overdose,” says Aleguas.

Proper storage of medications, both at the store and at your home, greatly affects the shelf life of the product. Warm, humid locations, like bathroom medicine cabinets, can cause medications to expire quicker. Aleguas suggests storing medicine in a cool, dark place, like a linen closet.

Aleguas adds that while OTC medications aren’t dangerous past their prime, some prescription medications can be. If you have an expired prescription medication, don’t take it without consulting with a pharmacist or doctor.



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