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Health Tips October 08, 2022

Can You Take Expired Medication?

Medically Reviewed by Pharm Chioma

Written by Adaobi Oduenyi

When was the last time you checked the expiry date on your medications?

Have you ever been curious about what the expiration dates on your medication mean?

This article will explain what the expiration date on your medications means and the best way you should properly dispose of expired medications.

Why Do Medications Have Expiry Dates?

Medications have expiration dates to show the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medication.

Expiration dates are put on prescription medications,OTC ( Over-the-Counter)medications, vitamins, supplements, and herbal products, and they have varying amounts of oversight from organizations like NAFDAC.

Manufacturers often set an initial expiration date, which can be updated or extended after long-term testing of the medication has been conducted.


“Proper storage is one way to help make sure your medicines will remain safe and effective up to their expiration date. Be sure to read the label to see if there are specific storage instructions for your medicine“

Where Can I Find The Expiry Date On My Medicine?

You can find the expiry date on the medicine packaging or on the label. This can say:

  • expiry

  • expiry date

  • expires

  • exp

  • exp date

  • use by

  • use before

Even with this information some people still think that taking medications after their expiration date can still be effective or help save them money.

Healthcare organizations like NAFDAC advise consumers not to use expired medications because of their potential risks.

Here Is Why You Should Not Take Expired Medication

Expired medical products are less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance. 

Once the expiration date has passed there is no guarantee that the medicine will be safe and effective.If your medicine has expired, do not use it.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), many people do not know how to properly dispose of old medications which can lead to dangerous drugs ending up in the wrong hands.

Finally, expired medicines are also not just a risk to the person they were prescribed for and can injure children and pets if taken by mistake, that is why proper disposal of expired medicines is very important.

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How Can You Properly Dispose of Expired Drugs?

  • Read the label on the medicine and follow any specific disposal instructions that may be included.

  • If you want to throw the expired medications away do not throw them like that in the trash always mix them with an undesirable substance like sand, the litter sand of your pet can also work

  • Do not flush expired or unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or your pharmacist specifically instructs you to do so.

Proper storage is one way to help make sure your medicines will remain safe and effective up to their expiration date. Be sure to read the label to see if there are specific storage instructions for your medicine.

Certain medicines need to be stored in the fridge and others cannot be exposed to high temperatures (always ask your pharmacist for the proper way to store your medication).

Always remember that improper medication storage can contribute to decreased effectiveness in medicines that have not reached their posted expiration date, store medicines properly and do not use expired medicines -- it is not worth the risk

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