Even though the majority of people are aware of the fact taking an expired medicine can turn out to be rather dangerous to health, there are situations in which we need a drug urgently an there is nothing else available rather than a drug which has already expired. What should you do in such a situation? Is taking an expired medicine will be more harmful for you than not taking anything at all?
The drugs which should never be taken expired
Although no one has carried out clinical research on the quality and potential harm of expired drugs, the knowledge of biochemistry and pharmacy makes it obvious that the following substances should never be taken if they have already reached their expiration date.
First of all, any medicines which look old or spoilt should not be used whether they are for the internal or external usage. Pay your attention to the fact recently produced drugs can also get spoilt before their official expiration date for instance, in the case if they have not been stored or transported appropriately.
In some countries, pharmacists are allowed to mix active substances creating a drug for an individual usage of a particular patient according to the prescription of a doctor. Such medicines should never be taken after expiration since it is rather difficult to predict the changes which can take place in such a substance.
It is strongly recommended to resign from taking any expired drugs in the form of injections even if they have not changed their appearance. Certainly, it is absolutely prohibited to take such drugs if you notice any changes in their appearance.
Another group of drugs which should never be taken after expiration includes medicines with preservatives. A large number of such substances are sold in a liquid form, for example, nasal and eye drops. The expiration date for such products is extremely important and usually, it differs from the expiration date in the case of an opened package. That is so because of a limited activity of a preservative. If it loses its power, the medicine can be easily get contaminated with microorganisms which can cause serious health conditions.
According to some studies, antibiotics based on tetracycline can become toxic when expired. Although scientists have not reached the same conclusion on this topic yet, it is still not recommended experiment with your own health. At the same time, you should be aware of the fact antibiotics sold in the form of a suspension lose their biological activity so that they become helpless.
Other popular medicines which can easily lose their power after an expiration date are various biologically active products such as various vaccines, products based on blood, toxoids and immunoglobulins.
Oral nitro-glycerine should not be taken if it is stored opened for a longer time even if it still has not expired as this substance losses its effectiveness very easily.
Finally, insulin is also a medicine which can change its chemical contents after expiration easily.
Are all of the medicines harmful when expired?
As you have understood, telling that all of the medicines are harmful after their expiration date is not exactly accurate. Some of the products can really become toxic and can cause serious health problems. This happens because the substances in such products can get into some chemical reactions with absolutely new and poisonous products.
Some medicines are not prone to initiate such reactions, however, they can become a great environment for the proliferation of microorganisms with time which also makes them absolutely inappropriate for consumption.
Finally, there are products which simply become inactive which is also harmful as a person cannot rely on their effectiveness any more.
Yet, some experiments were carried out on particular popular drugs which showed that there are products featured with particularly high stability. Actually, in some experiments scientists checked the effectiveness and safety of drugs which expired forty years ago. Note that these studies were not of a clinical form, so they should be treated only informatively. Still, in some life-threatening situations, some of these substances might save a life in case there are no fresh medicines of a required type.
The most resistant drugs in the group checked by the researchers are paracetamol and antihistamine medicines based on loratadine. The first one maintains 99% after years of being expired whereas the second one losses only one percent of its effectiveness during extremely harsh stress tests.
Codeine is 90% effective after being severely expired, whereas Aspirin can be used within maximum two years after getting expired.
Finally, you should be aware of the fact automatic injectors of adrenaline known as EpiPens and used for saving people from severe allergic reactions are still 84% effective after 4 years of expiration. This does not mean you should not change them for new ones, but such an injector can still be used rather than nothing at all.