Are expired drugs safe to use

Health risk - Expired medication: can you still take it?

Whether the opened bottle of cough syrup or the expired pain pill - when rummaging through the medicine cabinet, many find that some preparations have not been used for a longer period of time. But can drugs that have passed their expiration date continue to be taken or should they be kept away from them?

How long can drugs be used?

Medication should not be taken after the expiration date, but should be disposed of. This also applies if they look perfect from the outside. “Expiration dates on drug packs are much more than a recommendation. This is what distinguishes them from the best before date on foods, ”explains Mathias Arnold, Vice President of the Federal Association of German Pharmacists' Associations (ABDA).

For more safety: keep the medication packaging

Just as unlike food, drugs neither start to mold nor smell strange. With individual drugs, this makes it almost impossible, even for experts, to understand whether they can still be used. It therefore makes sense to keep the packaging: It is always marked with the words “usable until”. As a rule, industrially manufactured drugs can be used for up to five years.

Attention: For some drugs, for example eye drops, the use-by period takes effect after opening. The shelf life can be shortened to a few weeks, depending on the preparation.

Store sensitive medication properly

It is also important to store medication properly. Many medicines should be protected from moisture and heat. This applies, for example, to acetylsalicylic acid, the substance from which aspirin is made: it decomposes if the humidity is too high. Heat, on the other hand, is a problem with various calcium antagonists that are contained in anti-high blood pressure drugs.

Danger: If you are unsure, the package insert provides information on how certain drugs should be stored - because there are sometimes special features. Insulin, for example, often has to be stored in the refrigerator at two to eight degrees Celsius.

What to do with the in-house medicine cabinet?

The medicine cabinet does not belong in the bathroom or in the kitchen, warns the Hessen State Chamber of Pharmacists. Dry, rather cool rooms without major temperature fluctuations are more suitable - such as the bedroom or the hallway. In addition, medicines should always be stored in such a way that children cannot reach them. This works best with a lockable cabinet. Lockable medicine cases are a good alternative.

Do not apply expired plasters to open wounds

For everything that belongs to the first-aid kit, the expiry date relates to sterility: the manufacturers guarantee sterility up to the specified time. Open wounds should therefore not be treated with expired products in order to avoid infection. However, if you want to cushion a pressure point on the foot, for example, you can also use a plaster whose expiration date has passed.

Where can I dispose of medication?

Pharmaceutical residues are found almost everywhere in the environment: in rivers, soils, but also in groundwater. This could be avoided with proper disposal - because medication does not belong in the toilet or sink. According to the Federal Environment Agency, there are three options for the correct disposal of pharmaceuticals:

Residual waste bin: In Germany, residual waste is mostly incinerated. This destroys the biologically active components of drugs and does not pose a problem for the environment.

Tip: You can find out whether your residual waste is incinerated on the website of the respective municipal waste collection agency.

Mobile pollutant collection point: Citizens can dispose of pollutant-containing waste in normal household quantities free of charge with municipal vehicles.

pharmacy: In some pharmacies it is possible to return old medication.

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By RND / Jessica Orlowicz