“Sell by”/Expiration Dates for Medications

A recent NPR story/ProPublica research reiterates the fact that many medications remain potent long after their expiration dates: That Drug Expiration Date May be More Myth Than Fact

Here’s an excerpt:

Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard. One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston said the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit, but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term care pharmacies, retail pharmacies and in consumer medicine cabinets…

Pharmacists and researchers say there is no economic “win” for drug companies to investigate further. They ring up more sales when medications are tossed as “expired” by hospitals, retail pharmacies and consumers despite retaining their safety and effectiveness…

Whatever the solution, the drug industry will need to be spurred in order to change, says Hussain, the former FDA scientist. “The FDA will have to take the lead for a solution to emerge,” he says. “We are throwing away products that are certainly stable, and we need to do something about it.”

My take: Don’t expect any action on this issue anytime soon.  At the very least, this will may persuade some family members not to throw away some medications that are likely still effective.

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