General Question

SamIAm's avatar

Can I take cold medicine that expired two months ago (pill)

Asked by SamIAm (8626 points ) February 12th, 2012

It’s just some daytime cold pills that expired 12/11. Think they’re OK to take?

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27 Answers

wilma's avatar

I would take them if I needed them.

john65pennington's avatar

Call your pharmacist and ask your question, ok?

Coloma's avatar

Yes, no problem, most medications don’t go “bad”, they just lose a little of their potency.
2 months is nothing, 2 years, no.

SamIAm's avatar

Good advice @john65pennington – pharmacist said not to but for some reason, I don’t believe her. I’ll just run across the street and get some more. Thanks :)

jazmina88's avatar

Yes. no problem. the army has done studies on expired meds and they seem to be fine.

auhsojsa's avatar

@SamIAm If I worked in a guitar store and you called me asking if you should replace your strings, I’d say the same thing as your pharmacist. :D

Hain_roo's avatar

I would take it w/o thinking twice, – that’s me.

Kraigmo's avatar

Almost any pill, except antibiotics, will last a decade in normal household conditions. (It’s best to not store them in the bathroom… too moist).

SpatzieLover's avatar

They’re fine @SamIAm. If anything, they’d be slightly less effective.

Coloma's avatar

No-thing automatically goes bad the day it expires. I was just checking on a stashed Z-Pac I had a refill on for a sinus infection in Dec.
It expires” in Sept. of 2013 which really means about a year later, minimum.
Dec. 2011 to Sept. 2013, almost 2 years, and more like 3. The stash is good for a long time. lol

JLeslie's avatar

I would take it.

ETpro's avatar

Most medications have an expiration date 1 year from manufacture. Perscriptions are dated 1 year from the date they are filled. Obviously, they weren’t manuffactured the day your pharmacist put them in your pill bottle. They may well have been 2 months old or older sitting on the pharmay shelf waiting for you to need them. So clearly pills aren’t perfectly good on the 11th of February 2012 and completely useless on the 12th. Don’t keep really old medicine around. Purge the medicine cabinet twice a year, perhaps spring cleaning when you set your clocks for daylight time and fall wien you set them back—just as you check smoke and CO detector batteries at those times. But if you need the cold medicine and it’s only 2 months past expiration, it’ll work. take it. It certainly won’t do you any harm.

College_girl's avatar

I’ve taken three year old meds and they work fine….....and I turned out just great!

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tedd's avatar

They are less effective because the medicines have half lives and decay over time.

But they will not cause any harm to you.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd Half life is how many hours it takes in the body for the medicine to be at half strength. It has to do with how we break down a medication and rid our bodies of it.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd Your link states the pharmacological half life is about break down in the body. I agree the medication over time loses efficacy sitting on the shelf, but when medical professionals speak of half life regarding medication, they mean in the body. For instance, you take amoxicillin every 8 hours, because the half life in the body is about 8 hours. Medication is prescribed to keep a cerrtain level of meds fairly constant, and not fall below a specific level.

9doomedtodie's avatar

I usually do it. If I were you, I would take it.

tedd's avatar

@JLeslie But when I, an analytical chemist, speak of half lives.. I am talking about the propensity of all materials to break down over time as they sit there… Including biological chemicals that are not maintained as living or semi-living things…. such as pills…. This is also known as the reason that medicines have expiration dates.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd I guess what threw me is, I doubt a medicine expiration marks the half life, meaning when it is at half strength, but I see what you mean now. I would just word it that the meds lose potency or efficacy over time. So for instance I would risk expired pain meds or decongestants a few months past date, but not expired antibiotics.

tedd's avatar

@JLeslie Oh no they wouldn’t be half strength.. In fact half lives are very rarely used to determine when you’ll lose half of a material, but more how much you’ll have left after X days. The medicines are determined to no longer be “effective enough” by the drug company or the FDA, so they stamp those expiration on them. But they’re not comparable to an expiration on food or something like that, as failing to follow those could get you sick.

Precisely on the antibiotic comparison. Since you want those to be strong enough to do what they’re supposed to.

keobooks's avatar

After the expiration date, they won’t become contaminated and kill you. They also aren’t fully potent up until their expiration date and then magically start to become useless the next day. I think they do lose their potency. Sometimes its a few weeks or months after the date and sometimes they are still good for several years later.

I think the main reason there is a hard expiration date is for litigation purposes. Would it be fair to the drug company if you took a 20 year old medication and it didn’t work at all or made you sicker? No. So the drug companies put a date on their meds. If something goes terribly wrong before that date, there is a chance they will take responsibility for it. After that date, they will claim that they can’t be responsible for what happens when people take medicine past the due date.

The only medication you really need to be up on the expiration dates are antibiotics, anything that should be refridgerated, and birth control pills. Birth control pills won’t hurt you if they expire, but they will lose effectiveness. Since you’re trying not to get pregnant—even a slight risk is unacceptable, IMO.

JLeslie's avatar

@tedd I think we agree. :)

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Of course. Research the 20 year study the military did on meds and expiration dates.

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