It has happened to all of us. We reach into our medicine cabinets and grab the pill bottle and open it as quickly as we can. Some time later we notice that the drugs are past the expiration date on the bottle and we wonder "should I throw the rest of them out?" Most of us do not even notice the expiration date on the bottle and we are probably taking expired medication. Is that dangerous? Should we really just throw away medication after it has expired?
Pharmaceutical companies that make the medications we use establish how long a drug can be expected to be effective after it is created and put an expiration date on the drug during the development of the drug. The date of expiration merely states that after that date the effectiveness or the potency of the drug can no longer be guaranteed.
In other words the drug does not become dangerous or lethal after it has expired, but it may not produce the desired effect that it did prior to the expiration date.
After a drug expires it starts to deteriorate and the strength of the ingredients can drop to 60% or maybe even 50% of what it originally was. After a while the drug just stops being effective altogether, because it is unclear when that is pharmaceutical companies place an expiration date on the drug to ensure that it is at the maximum effective potency.
Aside from the drug not being as useful as it once was there are also possible harmful effects from taking expired medication. As I said before the ingredients start to deteriorate and they may break down into a chemical that is more harmful than the original substance. For example the elements that make up common household table salt are sodium and chlorine which is also known as sodium chloride when they are combined. If some how the sodium was removed all that would be left is the chlorine which is poisonous.
Another risk you can encounter from taking expired medication is uneven consistency of the ingredients especially in liquid medications. What can happen is that the ingredients in the medication become uneven throughout the tube or bottle and if you use this unbalanced medication then you run the risk of using too high a dose which can do harm. Of course the opposite is also true and there may be too low a dose of the medication and it will have no effective at all.
Drugs are developed with specific even doses in mind and when the drug expires there is no way to know if that dose can be maintained.
Medication is designed to help with the effects of an ailment and they all come with expiration dates. The expiration date is put on the drug so you can be aware of how long that particular batch of medication will be effective at treating that ailment. The truth is that while sometimes you can take a drug after it has expired and it may still work there is no way of knowing for sure.
No doctor or pharmacist would advise you to take expired medications because they are not sure what it may do after it expires. Is taking expired pills OK? To be on the safe side I think probably not.