Sunday, October 14, 2012

Not Surprising: Shelf-Stable Drugs Don't Expire (Fast)

Via the always-excellent Phantom's list and the LA Times:

Yes, your long-expired Tylenol in the back of the cupboard is still fine

While I am not in any way advocating that you, personally, should take expired drugs (although I do), it is still true that most things that can be made into tablets are extremely shelf-stable and will last for a really long time.  Anything exposed to heat and light will obviously degrade faster, and suspensions (creams and liquids, and to a lesser degree ointments) are less stable.  And also obviously, anything whose function is critical (anti-epileptics, for example) shouldn't be messed with unless absolutely necessary.

A note to the scientists: Sigma also puts one-year expiration dates on everything.  And we ALL know that's a load of horse hooey. 


  1. Yeah, those antibiotics for selection in bacterial cultures, they work just fine even after the official expiration date.
    However, the aspirin tables that had turned yellow? I didn't want to try...

  2. In fact, the Dept. of Defense drug-stockpile-testing (link to document here) and the FDA use 'changed color' as a reason to discard expired drugs. So, yes! Excellent reasoning! And yeah. Ancient amp still works fine, right?

  3. In my grad lab we had amp from before the senior grad student had started (so, maybe 8 years old?). It still worked just fine.

    Recently, I called Sigma to find out about the shelf life of some refrigerated chemical. I was told that Sigma does not an official expiration date for shelf stable/refrigerated items. However, Sigma will only guarantee that the item will work for one year past whenever it is bought.

    1. Ha! I had the same exact conversation with them about six years ago. For something we had two bottles of- an old one and a new one- the new one had a 1-yr exp. and the OLD one had a TEN year exp.

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  5. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Always suspected this was the case. I'm pretty terrible about throwing away old/expired medicine. I wind up not doing for years- usually motivated by a move- and wind up with enough unused pain killers I could make a killing selling them on the street.


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