VERIFY: When do prescription medications expire?

How long are prescription drugs good?

There seems to be some confusion about what date is the true cutoff for keeping medications. Is it the manufacturer's expiration date or the pharmacy's discard date?

"Absolutely, it is a confusing topic. People invest money in their medication and their health care and they want to know how long is this good?" Dr. John Kirtley, head of the state pharmacy board said.

A question from an anonymous THV11 viewer lead us to investigate this topic. She sent us photographs of her prescribed medication and the first photo showed an expiration date on the bottle of October of 2019. In the second photograph, however, instructions from her pharmacy said to discard by October of 2018.

"Why the difference?" Dr. Kirtley said. "When you go to the pharmacy, any prescription that's written — if it's a non-controlled substance — it can only be valid for a year in Arkansas. So, if your prescriber gives you a year supply or even a one month supply, that original prescription is only valid for a year"

But, our viewer asks, is that medication still safe to take after that one year since the expiration date is later? 

According to ConsumerMedSafety.org, the expiration date on a medication is the "date up until which the drug manufacturer can guarantee that the medicine is fully potent and safe to take based on product testing.

"The effectiveness of a medicine may decrease over time, but studies have shown that much of the original potency still remains years after the expiration date"

Which has our viewer asking this, "can you verify that the medicine really should be discarded a year before the expiration date?"

"it's tough to say," Dr. Kirtley said. "What we can safely say is if that medication was left in the pharmacy on the shelf in a controlled temperature environment it is stable until the date on that bottle. The problem is once that bottle goes to a patient, they're opening it every day, they're taking pills out. So they are tampering with it, which would generally give it a shorter shelf life."

Dr Kirtley goes on to say that if the medicine is something you're not using, get rid of it because leaving meds in your cabinet could cause more risk.  He points to the webiste a-r take back dot org for more information on how to safely do that 

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© 2017 KTHV-TV


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