Can you take expired medicines?

Can you take expired medicines?
Published : Apr 21, 2024
Last Updated : Apr 21, 2024

People often come across one or two medicines that they take daily. But before taking any drug, do you check the expiration dates? If the medicine is expired, can you use it? Expired medicines are dangerous for health.

Medicines don't lose their potency immediately when they expire, but it becomes harmful to take expired ones. The more previous medicine expired, the more it isn't good anymore. So, before taking any medicine, always check the expiration date first.

Today, this blog discussed everything about expired medicines. Could you go through it to know more?

What is the expiration date?

The expiration date is a date after which the medicine should no longer be used, as it loses potency and is unsafe. All types of medicine, such as OTC medicines, herbal products, vitamins, etc., have a fixed expiration date, which is set to improve the safety of the drugs.

When will the FDA start requiring expiration dates?

The Expiration Dating Law passed in 1979, required the FDA to require expiration dates on medicines. Both OTC and prescription medicines have expiry dates printed on them, guaranteeing the effectiveness and safety of the medication you use.

What risks are associated with expired medicines?

There are potential risks of taking expired medicines. Some of them are:

· Expired medicines are not effective.

· The preservatives of the medicines break down. As a result, it contains harmful germs.

· The medicine, after expiration, loses its strength and hence causes health problems such as antibiotic resistance.

Is it safe to take expired medicines?

Even if they expired a day ago, expired medicines can be dangerous. Expired medication may cause harm. As a result, think twice before taking such medicines. Even today, people believe that medicines are good after the expiration period.

However, the Food and Drug Administration proved that expired medicines may have several risks. Hence, medicines after the expiration period are not safe to consume, and you should not take such medications.

What Things to do with expired medicines?

Expired medicines are useless. Hence, if you find the medicine to be expired, do these things.

  • Throw in the garbage.

It's important to dispose of expired medicines properly by throwing them in the garbage.Mix the medications with dirt or cat litter and then throw. This will make no one else to find the medicine. Make sure to do this away from pets and children.

  • Don't flush

Even if the medicine is expired, avoid flushing it in bathrooms. If animals or people find it in the garbage, it's dangerous. Hence, avoid flushing.

  • Handle syringes properly

Used or unused syringes should never be thrown in drains. Properly discard them by wrapping them in a container.

Is it dangerous to take expired medicines?

Many people believe only a few medications become dangerous after their expiration date. However, most medicines lose their effectiveness over time due to changes in chemical composition.

Taking expired medicines sometimes can be very dangerous. Antibiotics, if expired, don't work best to treat infections. The medicines that don't work as expected after expiration time are:

  • Insulin
  • Anticoagulants
  • Thyroid medicines
  • Seizure medicines
  • Inhalers
  • Nitroglycerine pills.

Not only this but all medicines after expiration should be replaced with new strips. Inhalers are quite dangerous to use after expiration.

What happens if you take expired medicines?

The medicine may cause certain harmful impacts. But what will happen to your health depends on your medicine. Expired medicines are only sometimes harmful. Sometimes, they could be more effective than expected.

After the expiry period, medicines' chemical composition breaks down. As a result, they lose their potency and thus seem ineffective. Taking expired medicines can harm your health, as discussed below.


Nitroglycerin is used to treat angina and heart attacks. If you take expired nitroglycerin, it won't work as it is quite sensitive to heat and moisture. The chemical composition breaks down, and thus, it fails to prevent heart attacks.


Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. However, antibiotics that have expired are contaminated with bacteria, failing to treat the infection.

Birth control pills

Birth control pills are often used to prevent pregnancy, regular menstrual cycles, and more. The birth control pill if taken expired, can cause unwanted pregnancies, spotting, and many more.


Insulin is taken to prevent diabetes. The chemicals in insulin liquids break down very fast after the expiration date. Thus, the medicine becomes less effective and can cause high blood sugar levels.

Eye drops

Eye drops from the name it is clear that it is used to treat several eye conditions. Eye drops get contaminated with bacteria after expiration. This can cause certain eye infections, among which one popular is pink eye.


EpiPen is used to treat allergic reactions. Because the chemical breaks down quickly, the allergic reaction might be treated after the medicine has expired.

Other than the medicines listed above, all other medicines expire. Hence, they should also not be taken. Somehow, the effectiveness of the medication reduces after the expiry date.

Does prescription medicine expire?

Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines expire. Prescribed medicines are mainly used up to a year in some states. But in some, pharmacies may recommend that you get a new prescription from a healthcare provider.

You should always take any medicine only if your doctor advises you to do so immediately. Take it after checking the expiration details on the medicine.

Final words

From the above discussion, we conclude that medicines should be used only before their expiry dates pass. Although some medicines are effective after the expiration date, there isn't any data showing that they're working as they should.

We recommend you buy new strips of medicines if you find your medication is expired. Always discard expired medicines properly so that people or animals can access them under any circumstances.