Most people may find at least one or two “vintage” medications in their medicine cabinet – medicines that have surpassed their expiration dates. Maybe you have wondered whether some of your medications are still safe and or potent.  A 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine study looked at 8 medications with 14 active ingredients that had expired between 28 and 40 years ago. The drugs were in their original, unopened containers. Researchers discovered that almost all of the medications still had levels of active ingredients within the FDA’s acceptable range! The following are numbers from the study, as well as how long other manufacturers guarantee their health products are effective and safe.

12 – The number of active ingredients out of 14 tested that still had at least 90% of the potency advertised on the label. These active ingredients include codeine, and acetaminophen, caffeine, and compounds that treat insomnia, anxiety and arthritis.

2- The number of drugs in the study that disintegrated over time – aspirin and amphetamine.  Another study by the FDA noted that the expiration date is also critical for insulin, nitroglycerin and liquid antibiotics.

3- The number of years sunscreen maintains it’s potency, according to Mayo Clinic.

2 to 3 – The number of years most toothpaste companies guarantee the active ingredients in their products will be at full strength.

4-  The number of years many contact lens makers guarantee lenses will be sterile, if they have been in the sealed package the entire time. The time can vary depending on the lens type and the container.


San Francisco Chronicle 5/28/13

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