18 doctors weighed in:

Is it harmful or dangerous to take expired medicine?

18 doctors weighed in
Dr. Visalakshi Vallury
Family Medicine
8 doctors agree

In brief: Generally ok

With rare exceptions (tetracycline, nitoglycerine and Insulin for example) most medications are generally safe upto 15 years after the expiration date.
This was demonstrated by a study done by government on medications stored by the military. The date is required by the fda to certify that a medication is fully potent.

In brief: Generally ok

With rare exceptions (tetracycline, nitoglycerine and Insulin for example) most medications are generally safe upto 15 years after the expiration date.
This was demonstrated by a study done by government on medications stored by the military. The date is required by the fda to certify that a medication is fully potent.
Dr. Visalakshi Vallury
Dr. Visalakshi Vallury
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Dr. Ralph Morgan Lewis
Family Medicine
3 doctors agree

In brief: Possibly

Most meds are still safe a couple months past the expiration date.
A few, however, may not be: liquid meds may evaporate, leaving a more concentrated dose; expired tetracyclines can cause fanconi syndrome, a disease of the kidneys, & liver damage.

In brief: Possibly

Most meds are still safe a couple months past the expiration date.
A few, however, may not be: liquid meds may evaporate, leaving a more concentrated dose; expired tetracyclines can cause fanconi syndrome, a disease of the kidneys, & liver damage.
Dr. Ralph Morgan Lewis
Dr. Ralph Morgan Lewis
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Dr. Cory Annis
Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
3 doctors agree

In brief: Maybe

The expire date is the last date the manufacturer can guarantee effectiveness.
Sure a lot of medicine remains effective beyond that, but not guaranteed. A lot of meds are very shelf stable provided they've been kept in good condition. But your steamy bathroom medicine cabinet is not the safest shelf in the world. A few meds degrade into something more harmful but mostly they just stop working.

In brief: Maybe

The expire date is the last date the manufacturer can guarantee effectiveness.
Sure a lot of medicine remains effective beyond that, but not guaranteed. A lot of meds are very shelf stable provided they've been kept in good condition. But your steamy bathroom medicine cabinet is not the safest shelf in the world. A few meds degrade into something more harmful but mostly they just stop working.
Dr. Cory Annis
Dr. Cory Annis
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Dr. Kenneth Cheng
Family Medicine
3 doctors agree

In brief: Loss of potency

For the most part, it is not dangerous as expired medications begin to loose potency and effectiveness (and thus one may be harmed by taking a sub-optimal dose.
) the exception is the tetracycline family of medications where taking expired tetracycline can cause liver damage.

In brief: Loss of potency

For the most part, it is not dangerous as expired medications begin to loose potency and effectiveness (and thus one may be harmed by taking a sub-optimal dose.
) the exception is the tetracycline family of medications where taking expired tetracycline can cause liver damage.
Dr. Kenneth Cheng
Dr. Kenneth Cheng
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Dr. Henry Ng
Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
2 doctors agree

In brief: Yes, it can be

Expired medications may no longer have the same effects on the body and may interact with other medications your health care provider has prescribed.
People with younger children in the household should be aware of the risk of accidental ingestion of medications, especially expired medications. You should dispose of expired or uncessarily medications.

In brief: Yes, it can be

Expired medications may no longer have the same effects on the body and may interact with other medications your health care provider has prescribed.
People with younger children in the household should be aware of the risk of accidental ingestion of medications, especially expired medications. You should dispose of expired or uncessarily medications.
Dr. Henry Ng
Dr. Henry Ng
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Dr. Patrick Ferry
Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
2 doctors agree

In brief: Maybe

Pills do not turn into pumpkins at midnight on their expiration date.
There is probably some room for error when an expiration date is placed on a label. But why be so cheap on something as important as your health? If it is a prescription, you probably ought to go get a refill (to confirm the medication is still indicated!) and if otc, just splurge on a fresh bottle.

In brief: Maybe

Pills do not turn into pumpkins at midnight on their expiration date.
There is probably some room for error when an expiration date is placed on a label. But why be so cheap on something as important as your health? If it is a prescription, you probably ought to go get a refill (to confirm the medication is still indicated!) and if otc, just splurge on a fresh bottle.
Dr. Patrick Ferry
Dr. Patrick Ferry
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Dr. Marsha Davis
Internal Medicine
2 doctors agree

In brief: Depends

Tetracyclines can be harmful if expired.
Most medications just lose potency but will not harm you. Most medications remain just as potent for at least 6 months beyond the stated expiration date.

In brief: Depends

Tetracyclines can be harmful if expired.
Most medications just lose potency but will not harm you. Most medications remain just as potent for at least 6 months beyond the stated expiration date.
Dr. Marsha Davis
Dr. Marsha Davis
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Dr. Timothy Ashley
Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
1 doctor agrees

In brief: Can be

Depends a bit on the med, but most become less effective, which could be dangerous and certainly makes using them a problem for whatever you're treating.
Essentially no drugs become dangerous in the sense of being poisonous. Typically it's not like food expiry, for drugs the date is certainly "use by", not "sell by".

In brief: Can be

Depends a bit on the med, but most become less effective, which could be dangerous and certainly makes using them a problem for whatever you're treating.
Essentially no drugs become dangerous in the sense of being poisonous. Typically it's not like food expiry, for drugs the date is certainly "use by", not "sell by".
Dr. Timothy Ashley
Dr. Timothy Ashley
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