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Medicine Government United States Science

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates (propublica.org) 316

schwit1 shares a report from ProPublica: Hospitals and pharmacies are required to toss expired drugs, no matter how expensive or vital. Meanwhile the FDA has long known that many remain safe and potent for years longer. The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates -- possibly toxic, probably worthless. But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term "expiration date" was a misnomer. The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. But the dates don't necessarily mean they're ineffective immediately after they "expire" -- just that there's no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.

Tests on the decades-old drugs including antihistamines, pain relievers and stimulants. All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers. The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations. Experts say the United States might be squandering a quarter of the money spent on health care. That's an estimated $765 billion a year.

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The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @10:39PM (#54836941)

    The manufacturers have zero incentive to do these sorts of tests, and private individuals have no way to force the expiration dates to be changed, so this is exactly the sort of testing that the FDA should be funding.

    But a more interesting question than the fact that several of the medications were at near 100% effectiveness, how many medications were actively harmful (as opposed to just less effective)?

    • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @11:32PM (#54837147)
      I used to work at a drug manufacturer that did stability testing required by the FDA.

      From each lot that's manufactured, they put some of the tablets in a bottle and leave the bottle in a large closet with controlled humidity and temperature. Then every couple months someone goes in, gets the bottle, and performs an assay on a bunch of tablets. This keeps going on schedule until the expiration date, when they stop doing the testing and throw the bottle out. In general that's all that an expiration date is- nobody's doing stability tests on that lot of tablets anymore.
      • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:02AM (#54837521) Homepage

        Sometimes I wish Slashdot had the ability to pin comments right to the top of the entire thread. This is probably the most useful piece of information I've read on any post at all today. Thanks for the info!

        • Useful? perhaps not. Informative and interesting, definitely.

        • by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @07:43AM (#54838385)
          That's also how food expiration is often set. FDA testing or otherwise won't be useful without change to tort law... if the manufacturer is required to guarantee the product until expiration date and required to set one, they'll set one that is within their ability to run a stability test on and long enough that their manufacturing can keep up with demand. Setting it longer requires longer, more expensive testing and might not keep the production line operating at a nominal clip. So it isn't in their interest to make it longer anyway, and having it arbitrarily set by the government might 'fail' otherwise useful drugs that just happen to be less stable than the 10 year target.
      • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @05:24AM (#54837923)

        I used to work at a drug manufacturer that did stability testing required by the FDA. From each lot that's manufactured, they put some of the tablets in a bottle and leave the bottle in a large closet with controlled humidity and temperature. Then every couple months someone goes in, gets the bottle, and performs an assay on a bunch of tablets. This keeps going on schedule until the expiration date, when they stop doing the testing and throw the bottle out. In general that's all that an expiration date is- nobody's doing stability tests on that lot of tablets anymore.

        Thank you for the detail. There is an outstanding question.

        Exactly how does the drug company initially determine an expiration date?

        From your explanation, it is not based on testing or science at all. This merely suggests that Greed determines how long an expiration date is. Not that I'm surprised mind you. This is the Big Pharma we're talking about here. Part of the United States Medical Industrial Complex. Greed is part of their Creed.

        • Determining the correct expiration date involves lots of sciency stuff that we would not understand, but suffice it to say it is all very precise and involves a lot of math. Once they have that "expiration value" then they round it down to 1,2 or 3 years, depending on what management deems to be maximizing their shareholder's value.
          • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @07:22AM (#54838267)

            It also needs to be very conservative. Household stored medication is often stored in poor conditions of temperature, humidity, or even left out in bright light on a desk shelf. And many medications are sensitive to UV, to humidity, or to warmth. The result of an accidentally mis-stored medication is tragic, so caution is necessary for medication storage.

          • by knightghost ( 861069 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @07:28AM (#54838291)

            In the USA, drugs are required to expire once their effectiveness falls below 95% of original manufacture - in the worst storage scenarios. I think it was Tylenol that was still 99% effective after 40 years but aspirin was less than 1% effective. Pills lasted the longest but liquids lasted the shortest, while there are a few medications that do turn toxic.
            We do need far more testing because of the amount of wasted medications. Maybe something like an original (95% in worst conditions) date and extended (80% in good conditions) date.

            • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

              Depending on the drug, that extra 5% is relevant. For non-trivial prescription drugs even the brand matters. Different brands have different potencies that have very relevant effects on the patient. A good pharmacy will even be diligent about giving you the same brand of a generic you're already taking.

              I see this being less useful for the more expensive drugs versus the cheap OTC stuff.

              At a certain point, the cost from wasting an "expired product" becomes so trivial that there is no point in taking even the

              • I would strongly disagree. Without a precise weight and assessment of metabolism and kidney function and salt & water intake of the individual, dosages are all ballpark guesses. 5% might matter in a one in a million situation, but the reality is we are prescribed dosages that are usually only + or - 50% from optimal all the time.
    • by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:46AM (#54838159)

      A simple answer would be to require the drug manufacturers to accept returned drugs for credit or exchange with fresh ones. Set a maximum legal exchange fee of $0.05 per dose and see what happens to the official expiration dates.

  • by surfdaddy ( 930829 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @10:43PM (#54836959)

    Typically the expiration date is set at the time period when the potency reaches 90% of labled. But it takes years to do the studies. Once long enough has shown reasonable stability, the manufacturer says "OK, 3 (or watever) years is good enough". And they never study the long term stability. Most drugs are very stable. That's why I never hesitate to take expired meds (aspirin, Tylenol, etc.). I'd worry if it were super critical medications, lifesaving, etc.

    • by piojo ( 995934 )

      Not entirely correct. The expiration date is a date where the product is guaranteed to have at least 90% potency. The date is a lower bound, not an upper bound.

      • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @11:11PM (#54837081)

        I would also guess that the expiration date is for more than the potency of the drug - its also for the accuracy of the box instructions, listed side effects etc, which the manufacturer also has to make reasonable effort to keep up to date.

        Taking drugs from a 10 year old prescription in your medicine cabinet may mean the drugs themselves are still potent, but they may no longer list the severe side effect that was discovered 8 years ago, especially when taken with other medicine...

        Yeah, no one looks at that stuff anyway, but the drugs companies have to cover themselves somehow for the inevitable legal fall out.

        • by Calydor ( 739835 )

          So?

          Put up a list of drugs and side effects on the FCC, or CDC, or whatever other won't-go-away-tomorrow place related to illness and medicine you can think of, post the address on the pamphlet and state that a fully up to date list of known side effects can be found there if you're worried.

          • by Interfacer ( 560564 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @03:13AM (#54837645)

            Disclosure: I work in big pharma.

            The problem is that what you suggest is not not enough for regulatory purposes. You can't say 'oh well then just do this or have people ask for that'. There are a ton of regulatory requirements on the manufacture and selling of drugs and medical devices. Companies are required by law to abide by them or risk getting shut down or lose control of your own plant. I know one place where that happened, resulting in a direct cost of a couple hundred million dollars + a hostile takeover as a result of the drop in stock value.

            We follow all those 'stupid' rules because not doing so is not an option. If you want us to follow different rules, create the political momentum to change the laws that govern us.

            • The problem is those rules were put into place because of companies that didn't follow rules or common sense and people died as a result.all cxx in a pharmacutical company should be held criminally libale for people I jured after taking the medication as presrcibed. Then we can do away with lots of regulations the pharmacutical companies don't like.

              Regulations are rarely created in a vacuum a need or wrong is found and it is attempted to be fized

    • by gmack ( 197796 )

      Some drugs really do expire with potentially disastrous results. [nih.gov]

      • You didn't even read your own citation. FAIL.

        • by gmack ( 197796 )

          I think you skipped down to the part where it said go ahead and use them anyways because the benefits outweigh the risks but missed this part: "Epinephrine bioavailability from the outdated EpiPen autoinjectors was significantly reduced (P

          So less effective dosage then?

      • Summary: EpiPen dosages can be used past expiration until visible discoloration or separation of the components occurs.

        • by gmack ( 197796 )

          You missed the point entirely.

          It says:

          For prehospital treatment of anaphylaxis, we recommend the use of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr autoinjectors that are not outdated. If, however, the only autoinjector available is an outdated one, it could be used as long as no discoloration or precipitates are apparent because the potential benefit of using it is greater than the potential risk of a suboptimal epinephrine dose or of no epinephrine treatment at all.

          Translation: EpiPen dosages can be used past expiration because even a less effective/non effective EpiPen is less of a risk than no Epipen.

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I think there may also be some risk these things might decay into something bad for you. Probably not with asprin, tylenol etc as that would have come to light by now.

      I agree though there is no reason not use expired household pain killers of those types. The risk is your headache does not go away and you have wait 3 hours before you can try some other pills. Not exactly life threatening.

  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @10:44PM (#54836965) Homepage Journal

    If the expiration dates are 2-3 years from the date of manufacture, presumably pharmacies could do a little better inventory management and not have to throw any out. 2 years warning is plenty. Just keep 1 year's supply on hand. If demand drops, don't buy any more until you need to.

    • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @11:09PM (#54837069) Journal

      There are many drugs kept only for emergencies, in settings that have few emergencies, that must be thrown out and replaced when they expire. A good example is a general practitioner's office. They will keep a defibrillator, epinephrine, atropine, D50W, etc for medical emergencies, and may never use them over the course of a decade or two.

      Another example is the now infamous EpiPen. People that have severe allergic reactions must keep them on hand to ward off anaphylaxis, but they are usually so diligent about avoiding their allergens that they never need them. Thus they expire before they are used.

      Think of all the times patients are prescribed a medication but they cannot finish taking them (there are side affects, or the medicine isn't effective so another med is prescribed, etc, etc) and there are full pill bottles sitting around that could be used to treat other family members when they become ill. That would be.... efficient, would it not?

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Think of all the times patients are prescribed a medication but they cannot finish taking them (there are side affects, or the medicine isn't effective so another med is prescribed, etc, etc) and there are full pill bottles sitting around that could be used to treat other family members when they become ill. That would be.... efficient, would it not?

        I think you intentionally wrote "other family members" rather than "others" because even you realize how much of a cluster fuck it would be to try re-issuing medicine in general and even then I'd be skeptical of anyone but my closest family. Apart from a few very generic prescription-free drugs that are probably kept/shared today, you expect people to keep stock of old medications for years on the off chance that someone else in close family will suffer from the same condition and need the exact same medica

      • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @08:58AM (#54838851)

        There are many drugs kept only for emergencies, in settings that have few emergencies, that must be thrown out and replaced when they expire. A good example is a general practitioner's office. They will keep a defibrillator, epinephrine, atropine, D50W, etc for medical emergencies, and may never use them over the course of a decade or two.

        This category calls for more active management (which would never work in our real world because it would require cooperation and security). Each doctor's office small supply of these drugs could sit on the shelf for, say, half of their useful life, and then be transferred to the ambulance squad which will go through them before they expire. Instead the ambulance squad buys its own, and the office supply is wasted, for a net waste of money and supplies, because the transfer would count as an unlicensed re-sale or is prohibited (rather than treating it as an inter-pharmacy transfer or whatever the law calls it).

    • I was thinking less of a problem for hospitals but for families, especially those that are poor or live in remote areas.

      Imagine a growing family. So little Timmy has a cold, or an infection, or whatever. The parents get pediatric medications but not all of it is used, so it sits on a shelf. Little Timmy isn't so little any more, but his little sister Jenny gets something similar to what Timmy had five years ago. Will the medicine left on the shelf be safe for little Jenny?

      For a lot of people this is of

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @10:48PM (#54836979)

    Most patients don't get their prescription pills in the original sealed container of hundreds of tablets or capsules that is shipped to the pharmacy, but in a non-sealed container that is subject to high humidity and large temperature variation when stored at home. So the at-home longevity is less, although still almost always at least a couple years longer than marked on the retail vial.

    • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @11:08PM (#54837059)

      In the UK, it is *incredibly* uncommon for you to get a pill bottle any more - you get prescribed a specific dosage for a set period, which almost always corresponds to a specific container, so a 2.5mg tablet twice a day for 14 days means you get a 28 dose box with two 14 pill blister strips in it.

      I wouldn't know why you would get handed a generic pill bottle with individual pills in it these days, I haven't seen it happen in a couple decades.

      • I wouldn't know why you would get handed a generic pill bottle with individual pills in it these days, I haven't seen it happen in a couple decades.

        Bulk drugs are less expensive, easier on people with arthritis, and pill bottles (not caps, usually) are recyclable.

        • They also get accidentally reused for things that arent on the label, often aren't cleaned properly when refilled... you see where I am going?

          And as pill bottles are required to be child proof, how are they easier on people with arthritis?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            They also get accidentally reused for things that arent on the label, often aren't cleaned properly when refilled... you see where I am going?

            Understandable after not seeing them in over 20 years, those are false assumptions. Pill bottles are only used for what is on the label. The label is not replaced. The bottles are only reused a limited number of times if and only if they are prescribed that way. Many are not.

            And as pill bottles are required to be child proof, how are they easier on people with arthritis?

            Understandable ignorance from someone that has nothing to compare to. Pill bottles are not required to be child proof, but you must ask for an alternative. There are alternative cap options for those with physical ailments. Even with st

            • They also get accidentally reused for things that arent on the label, often aren't cleaned properly when refilled... you see where I am going?

              Understandable after not seeing them in over 20 years, those are false assumptions. Pill bottles are only used for what is on the label. The label is not replaced. The bottles are only reused a limited number of times if and only if they are prescribed that way. Many are not.

              Yup, a pharmacist may be regimented enough to not reuse a pill bottle, but what about standard Joe Blogs and his wife? Putting half their medication into a random pill bottle for safe keeping, travelling etc, and then sticking it in the medicine cabinet and forgetting... wait a minute, is this really oxycodone or is it paracetamol...?

              And as pill bottles are required to be child proof, how are they easier on people with arthritis?

              Understandable ignorance from someone that has nothing to compare to. Pill bottles are not required to be child proof, but you must ask for an alternative. There are alternative cap options for those with physical ailments. Even with standard caps, pushing and rotating with a palm is much easier than pushing pills out of blister packs for people with arthritis.

              So its not a blanket statement as was originally used then, eh?

              • by phayes ( 202222 )

                Yup, a pharmacist may be regimented enough to not reuse a pill bottle, but what about standard Joe Blogs and his wife? Putting half their medication into a random pill bottle for safe keeping, travelling etc, and then sticking it in the medicine cabinet and forgetting... wait a minute, is this really oxycodone or is it paracetamol...?

                That's no worse than the remnant of a blister pack that was snipped down to the last unused pills & no longer can be distinguished between oxy/ibu as is so common. Yeah, Joe's wife may remember that _that_ one, was the Oxy, and that one is the ibu given that they were her prescriptions, but maybe not & Joe won't know.

              • You travel with full blister sheets of a variety of medicines? Anyhow, it is easy to figure out what they are if you forget, you just google up the markings. It isn't like olden days when they'd be in random split capsules.
          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            The bottles I get from my pharmacy have double sided caps. turned one way, it is child proof. Turned the other it is easy opening.

            Prior to that, you could just ask the pharmacist for the easy opening bottles when you picked up your prescription..

            Pharmacies don't reuse bottles typically. Often people will peel the label off of a bottle and use it for something else. But to avoid confusion, the bottles I get describe the pills on the label so you can make sure you're getting the right thing.

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        Pill bottles are often used for treatment with no set duration - mainly anti-anxiety meds, the "Take when necessary" kind of stuff.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        In the UK, it is *incredibly* uncommon for you to get a pill bottle any more (...) I wouldn't know why you would get handed a generic pill bottle with individual pills in it these days, I haven't seen it happen in a couple decades.

        Here in Norway I'd say pill bottles are still common for many medications, but it's never a generic bottle that anyone at the pharmacy creates or is reused. Typically they're bulk medicines that gets prescribed at different or on-demand rates to different people like pain killers and not "cures" that follow a particular schedule like antibiotics or to kill a fungal infection or anything like that, those have blister packs. Many people have their own pill box which has a grid of days and times that they load

      • This is part of the same initiative we have to continue using imperial measurement
    • Aren't most pills in blister packs though? Except for maybe the advil bottle or the like?
    • by symes ( 835608 )

      This is the thing - there is a difference between manufacturers' inventory where drugs can be stored safely and patients holding onto drugs. For the latter - there are issues with some drugs hanging around. There is a risk that they might be misused by others in the same home. But probably more importantly, in many cases if the symptoms for which they were prescribed have not been successfully treated, or changed then it is probably a good idea that a clinician re-evaluates. We do not really want people sto

  • The US is wealthy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @10:51PM (#54836989) Homepage Journal
    Everything we do is based on the idea that it is cheaper to throw stuff away than to reuse. Go to less developed countries and you don't see plastic bottles and plastic bags and food being thrown away like it worthless. You don't see 50 gallon garbage cans being emptied every week. You see a small truck collecting the trash of an entire neighborhood.

    We have our expensive lifestyle, part of which is extreme safety. We have rules on how steep a ramp can be, no matter how expensive that makes construction. Every cafe must have a public toilet, no matter how expensive that makes the cafe, No one is going to make hand pulled taffy without wearing gloves.

    The first time a pharmacists gives expired drugs to a parent for their child, and the child does not improve, of in the worst case dies, even if the death has nothing to do with the drug, we are going to see a multimillion lawsuit. Hell, we live in country where a child watch something on TV, then does it, and we see a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

    So you know, maybe we can sell the drug at half price to medicare patients, but who is going to volunteer their parent as the one to take the expired drug over the non-expired drug?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Countries more wealthy than the US and those of a similar level of wealth also tend to generate a lot less waste. There is a certain cultural element to the US being very wasteful compared to other countries.

      That being said, erring on the side of caution with medicine (and thus being wasteful) is common throughout the developed world. Drug expiry dates will always remain based on pessimistic expectations and the manufacturer has no incentive to invest in studies that could show whether those expectations ma

  • by piojo ( 995934 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @10:59PM (#54837033)

    I already knew it's safe to take old medicines except tetracycline and similar antibiotics. But the surprise in this article is the fact that in a bigger study, 1/3 of medicine DOES lose its potency after expiration. The most important one is albuterol, the main "rescue" inhaler drug for asthma. This one is important because it's so tempting to stockpile--it's incredibly expensive in a lot of countries, so if you get a cheap source, you might want to buy enough for a decade or so. Too bad it doesn't last forever. I assumed all medicines were good forever if they're kept dry, but that's apparently not the case. If it differs per medicine, do the research when in doubt.

    However, I can say from anecdotes (mine and others I found online) that albuterol is good for a few years after expiration.

    • by Ramze ( 640788 )

      Yes. Antibiotics often should be kept in the refrigerator to prolong their effectiveness. Same for any medication in liquid form.

      The article is slim on details and admits many are "almost as effective" as when first made. Well... almost isn't necessarily good enough since medications depend on concentration. What exactly is "almost?" 85%? 90%? Taking the wrong dose thinking it's the full dose can make things worse -- especially for antibiotics or when figuring out drug interactions.

      Lots of docto

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        Yes. Antibiotics often should be kept in the refrigerator to prolong their effectiveness. Same for any medication in liquid form.

        The article is slim on details and admits many are "almost as effective" as when first made. Well... almost isn't necessarily good enough since medications depend on concentration. What exactly is "almost?" 85%? 90%? Taking the wrong dose thinking it's the full dose can make things worse -- especially for antibiotics or when figuring out drug interactions.

        I doubt 10% or 20% really makes a difference for most drugs, the dosing guidelines are not that accurate. My wife and I each received identical antibiotic prescriptions (for unrelated reasons), and we both had the exact same dose despite me being over one foot taller and weighing nearly twice her weight.
        https://science.slashdot.org/s... [slashdot.org]

    • That's because it is in a solution. Any drug that is dissolved in something will decompose a lot more quickly. Same with epi-pen...
  • Old news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Tuesday July 18, 2017 @11:02PM (#54837041)
    The militry stockpiles a lot of drugs and has been looking at how long drugs are good in an effort to save costs while ensuring the drugs were still good.
  • There is no incentive to figure out meaningful shelf lives of drugs because the manufactures can, and would prefer to, make more. Why bother to bless a blister pack of pills for 10 years instead of two? The drug maker can profit 5 times instead of once. And, presumably, like many government agencies, the FDA is a revolving door agency so, if anyone were to rock the boat and suggest that many drugs retain potency for vastly longer than 2-3 years, it would severely limit their future job prospects.

  • "A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations"

    How can something be "almost 100 percent of labeled concentration" and "as potent as when they were manufactured"? Seems like an article trying to sensationalize non-news. Milk doesn't necessarily expire on it's expiration date either, in fact, different states have different requirements for when that date is suppose to be set.
    And of course drug manu

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @12:36AM (#54837303)

    Those 122 compounds were over-representing publicly available products (over-the-counter), as opposed to medically regulated compounds. You would need more rigor for a study where the compound efficacy actually mattered. This doesn't make a general finding, across all classes of drugs so it feels a lot like misinformation. 25% difference in a beta blocker, glycerine, or blood thinner is a fatal change. These drugs are monitored with physical symptoms (metroprolol) and/or regular blood testing (sodium warfarin/heparin/lovenox). I know from experience that after a couple months the inert warfarin is unaffected, but the metroprolol is noticeably less effective.

  • Warranty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orgasmatron ( 8103 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @12:54AM (#54837357)

    I've taken to calling the dates on pill bottles the "warranty date", and I refer to the contents as being "out of warranty" instead of "expired". Ditto lots of food.

    It is easy for me, but hard on the girlfriend. She can watch me eat a can of Chili that has been out of warranty for 5 years (making it 7 or 8 years old) and know that it is fine, but still be unable to take a bite herself.

    Same problem with pills. A big bottle of ibuprofen costs just a little bit more than a small bottle, so if I need 2 pairs of pills, I'll almost always spend the extra $2 to get 200 instead of 50, or whatever. If I don't need them again for 4 years, it doesn't bother me at all that they've gone off warranty along the way.

    Disgust is wired very deeply in the brain, even though the higher layers of the brain interact with it. And for most people, it is nearly impossible to overcome.

    • It is easy for me, but hard on the girlfriend. She can watch me eat a can of Chili that has been out of warranty for 5 years (making it 7 or 8 years old) and know that it is fine, but still be unable to take a bite herself.

      Same problem with pills.

      I get that we all gotta die someday, but that obituary will be a bitch to swallow when your life is expired by a $2 can of old food..

      Risk vs. Reward. Mitigate wisely. Your girlfriend would probably appreciate you being around a bit longer.

      • Re:Warranty (Score:5, Informative)

        by totallyarb ( 889799 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @07:19AM (#54838251)

        I get that we all gotta die someday, but that obituary will be a bitch to swallow when your life is expired by a $2 can of old food.

        The thing is, an undamaged can effectively has no expiry date. People have recovered cans from the holds of ships that wrecked a hundred years ago and, upon opening them, discovered the contents to be safe. Unappetizing, perhaps (they do tend to dissolve into mush), but safe. The whole point of canning is that it makes microbial growth impossible, so if you're gonna be poisoned by a can of food, it makes no difference whether that can has been sitting on the shelf for a day or a decade. If it wasn't toxic on the day it was canned, it won't become so in the can. "Expiry dates" on cans are more to do with producers not wanting to create a bad impression by having customers try to eat soggy goop.

        But do check to make sure the can is undamaged! A tiny pinprick of a breach, and all bets are off.

  • I used to take a drug where in the small print the expiration date was explained that at that date they guaranteed 99% of the active substance to be still present. With me being on a "high dosage" I took 3000mg/day. Lower dosage options were 1000mg/day and 2000mg/day. i.e. when the doctor wants you to take 2100mg (it's not that accurate), he'll have to prescribe 3000.

    In short, it wouldn't even be all that bad if say 10% of the stuff was inactivated by a timed decay.

  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @02:00AM (#54837511) Journal

    The summary puts this number out of context.
    "ProPublica has been researching why the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world. One answer, broadly, is waste — some of it buried in practices that the medical establishment and the rest of us take for granted. We’ve documented how hospitals often discard pricey new supplies, how nursing homes trash valuable medications after patients pass away or move out, and how drug companies create expensive combinations of cheap drugs. Experts estimate such squandering eats up about $765 billion a year — as much as a quarter of all the country’s health care spending."

    So that total includes many things, including "expensive combinations of cheap drugs", not just, as the summary implies, expired drugs that are still usable.

  • Experts say the United States might be squandering a quarter of the money spent on health care. That's an estimated $765 billion a year.

    Talk about ambiguous, what is $765 a year, the money spent or the money squandered? And this also seem highly unlikely a figure because one would like have to assume that a very large percentage of healthcare is both spent on drugs and a large percentage of that is then thrown away because of the lack of any kind of stock control.

    If you have to check the dates in order to b

  • Pharmacology (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @05:20AM (#54837917)

    I remember from my pharmacology course my teacher told us that the ONLY compound you should never take once it has expired is acetaminophen/paracetamol since it breaks down to NAPQI [wikipedia.org] all by itself over time. Everything else, however, is not toxic. It just simply loses potency over time.

    Of course as a physician prescribing medication you would never recommend taking expired medication since, as mentioned in TFA, the manufacturer does not guarantee potency. Therefore you cannot know if the therapeutic dose can be reached in your patient. Since there's a risk of patients not being treated with expired meds, you always recommend they take non expired medication.

    • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

      That seems unlikely to be true. We're constantly making new compounds. I find it hard to believe that all of them, including things we've not invented yet, with the single exception of paracetamol degrade safely.

  • To this day the recommendation is to dispose drugs by flushing them down the toilet. That is the dumbest idea ever! A lot of that stuff is difficult to get out of the water.
  • Please point out any flaws in this logic (who am I kidding, this is /.)

    It seems like the best solution would be to change the laws to force drug companies sell drugs to pharmacies on consignment, so any unsold drugs get returned before or at their expiration date for the drug companies to dispose or re-certify, as their business model dictates. This is letting the business and free market determine the best way to handle the drugs. Some are so cheap to manufacture it is not worth saving the expired ones.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:30AM (#54838099) Journal
    Pharma has lots of incentive to have expiration dates, sooner the better. They are not going to let some univ prof making 100K a year threaten a 750 billion dollar market.

    Expect FUD, calling the study "flawed" soon. There are a few in Pharma whose job it is to watch for such studies being done and squelch it before it hits the news. They are going to get severely castigated for this news story to develop this far ahead.

  • Is it me or is is an awfully funny coincidence that this revelation occurs just as the drugs the US prisons needs to kill people are expiring?

    • by jafiwam ( 310805 )
      There is always the little lead pills. The dispenser is a little noisy but seems to work just fine.
  • And yet... (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by magusxxx ( 751600 )
    ...many elected officials have no expiration date. Hmmm. Curious...
  • Incentive (Score:4, Funny)

    by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @08:18AM (#54838587)
    Drug companies have no more incentive to extend / eliminate expiration dates than DeBeers has for telling women a used diamond's as good as a new one.
  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @08:19AM (#54838595) Journal

    Mother: "Silly, child! You bought Himalaya Salt, with expiration date next month!"
    Child: "Wow, that must have been very unlucky. The salt lying in the Himalaya mountains for millions of years and just after they got it into the shop its expiration date is over :("

    Honestly, if stuff is on a more or less constant temperature and safe from light, most things last nearly indefinitely. E.g. sugar, flour, oils, etc. especially if they are in air tight containers. Even a egg in the fridge lasts half a year, it only dries out slowly.

    Food in tin cans easy lasts for decades, despite of the expiration date being in 6 month or what ever.

  • by mikeabbott420 ( 744514 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @08:55AM (#54838821) Journal
    The cost of non-generic drugs primarily comes from profit taking, lobbying, marketing, and research. It is of limited value to extend the expiry date of drugs since this would just mean a higher per unit cost if fewer were sold. The cost of generic drugs is probably weighted more towards manufacture but the value of being able to still use things like 5 year old bottles of generic acetaminophen isn't going to make much difference to overall drug costs.

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