About 50 years ago the FDA instituted expiration dates on drugs, meaning that was the date, typically two to three years, until which they could guarantee efficiency. Well, it turns out that is not so. A toxicologist from the California Poison Control Center and a research pharmacist from the University of California San Francisco teamed up and discovered drugs can last often years longer. They studied 14 compounds and out of those 12 retained their efficiency. Of course the present system suits drug companies. The federal government stockpiles many medications which periodically have to be discarded. Nursing homes discard medications once a patient leaves and pharmacies certainly have to. All in all the researchers found that the waste in the health care system amounts to $765 billion a year, something like a quarter of health care spending. And drug waste account for a large portion of that.
ProPublica conducted the investigation that exposed these facts. Now it’s up to us to start using them. It will be a long time before Big Pharma owns up to this fact since it improves their bottom line, and it will equally be a long time before the FDA changes its rules. But we can heed this revelation and not go by the expiration date of given drugs. Two expensive drugs I was using, one a cream, another an inhaler reinforced the point the researchers made. I used them beyond the expiration date with no difference, and when I mentioned it to my doctor, she said “sure, that’s fine.”