Are your OTC meds always out of date?

I grabbed the Tylenol for my wife yesterday and, as usual, checked the expiration date - May 2017. She took it anyway, seemed to work fine.

It seems to me that every OTC med- aspirin, cold meds, cough syrup, are always out of date when we need them. Usually by several years. We use them, of course, but eventually we end up buying new ones and tossing a bunch of the old stuff out. Maybe we are just lucky not to fall ill very often but it still seems like such a waste. Other than aspirin/Tylenol/ibuprofen I don’t think you can buy smaller sizes.

Are we alone with this monumental problem? Do you have a cutoff date for when you stop using out of date stuff?

My urologist told me that aspirin from World War II was found and tested and still effective. He says dry tablets are good for years after the “date” but that oil-filled capsules, liquids or lotions lose their stability after the expiration date.

{…} Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date. {…}

IF they are stored correctly!

Yeah–I’ve had to throw out old cough syrup/Nyquil. I rarely get a cold, so I’m not surprised that when next time I get one, I’ve gotta buy a new bottle.

I take baby aspirin and I never run out or have it go bad. The bottle holds 500.

It does seem like, for some things, I buy the big bottles because of the unit price, but then it’s expired starting at like, 75% of the bottle remaining.

This is very true of acetaminophen, expectorant, and cough syrup. Those are things I use rarely. Allergy meds and ibuprofen I buy in the big bottles and go through them before they even come close to expiring.

I rarely use up a tube of Neosporin before it expires. Since it’s a lotion (ish), I guess I should continue tossing it out after the expireation date.

Yeah, this is me. I know I will never go thru the 100 tablet bottle of Tylenol but for some reason the price per tablet gets me more often than not. My wife is even worse, she buys the 500+ count bottles.

I wonder if this is “will” or “can”?

I can’t read your full article, it wants me to log in, what is correctly? I wonder if the warm, sometimes humid, bathrooms where most people store their meds is optimal.

I use Neosporin a lot because I get many small cuts on my hands and I really want to minimize scarring so I use a lot if it. Even using a lot, it is often out of date. And that’s the smallest tube I can buy.

Yeah, that ain’t optimal!

Meds are usually labeled with storage directions, there are those outliers that require refrigeration during storage.

Generally, cool, dry, and out of direct sunlight.
A closet outside the bathroom is probably the best place most living spaces have.

I can pay $12 for 24 pills at the drug store, or $8 for 200 at Costco. So I buy a lot and use them slowly, and don’t see anything wrong with ignoring the date, which is often somewhat forced. You don’t want to use certain expired things, like antibiotics.

I use very few OTC meds. But I stick with the expiration dates on what little i have. I’m not quite at the point of getting a headache, buying a 24-pill bottle of aspirin, taking one dose, then pitching the bottle immediately. But it’s much better than even odds the bottle will be expired before I take the second dose, and it’ll definitely be expired before the third dose.

Ref @thelurkinghorror’s prices just above, I may well have wasted an extra $4 buying the smaller bottle, but when my OTC meds cost me $8 for a 3 year supply (= 1 or 2 doses), how much more money can I save? I’m only spending ~1 penny per day for pills. Cutting that in half won’t matter spit.

For sure the people who’re eating NSAIDs at the rate of a 6-10 pills per day for years have a different tradeoff.

I have cough syrup that is decades old. I mixed it 50/50 with whisky so the alcohol would prevent bugs from growing. But I’m not worried about the codeine breaking down.

On the other extreme, I toss famotidine shortly after its “use by” date, because it doesn’t seem to be very shelf-stable. It tastes funny and doesn’t work as well. (yes, I know this.) I keep aspirin until it smells like vinegar.

I’ve used lots of expired OTC drugs, though, and most of them continue to work fine.

I’ve never even checked the expiry date on my OTC meds. I just use whatever I got when needed, and they seem to work.

I always tossed the Nyquil mainly because I was worried because it it was 4 or 5 years old and didn’t want to take any chances.

I take famitodine but it’s presciption.

As long as it’s not ranitidine (Zantac). That’s all recalled now, I hope everyone knows. The reason for the recall was that a chemical, NDMA, that is thought to be carcinogenic was found to increase in the medicine over time. So old ranitidine was extra dangerous.

Yes. Mainly because I like to keep a few OTC meds always on hand, but only very rarely use them. I’m pretty sure just about all of them are currently expired except Ibuprofen, which I bought fairly recently. I’m sure that will expire, too. But the expired stuff seems to continue to be effective. The most annoying is Polysporin antibiotic ointment. It’s important stuff to have around in case of a cut or wound, but because I’m not in a war zone it’s stuff I hardly ever use. So it expires, yet one doesn’t want to chance using expired ointment and risk a major infection. It’s not expensive and it’s not the cost that’s a problem, just the ongoing ordeal of always replenishing it.

I was curious about my stock of meds.

My OTC medication are all dated within the past two years or later.

I do have a half full container of baby powder in my bathroom that “expired” in 2003. I sprinkled a little on me and seems fine.

I also had a bottle of mouthwash under my bathroom sink that “expired” in 2007. The mouthwash is 21% alcohol; I tried it and it seemed fine.

For what it’s worth, if you clean a wound, petroleum jelly does about the same as the -sporins at keeping infection away. I found this out because 3 out of four members of my family are allergic or sensitive to the -sporins. My spouse had a really severe reaction to the dressing on her foot after bunion surgery, where they kept Neosporin on the wound for seven days. The dermatologist who eventually treated the resulting catastrophe said keeping it clean and protected using petrolatum was fine. And the research supports that.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared antibiotic ointment with plain white petroleum jelly (the medium in which the antibiotics are contained). There was no statistical difference between using petroleum jelly with antibiotic and without.

Very interesting, thanks. I don’t have allergy issues but I’m going to look into this a bit more deeply. One thing it appears to suggest is that expired Polysporin may not be problematic even if the antibacterial components are less effective, because supposedly you don’t really need them. Incidentally I’ve long since abandoned antibacterial hand soap (in fact the stuff with triclosan isn’t even made any more) but I’m not yet fully convinced that I should abandon antibacterial agents for wound treatment.

Many expiration dates are based on military standards, and most meds are in fact OK to use long after that date if they’re properly stored (stable temperature, out of direct sunlight, etc.) The medicine cabinet or kitchen are the two worst places to store meds; I keep some in a drawer in my living room, and the ones that don’t fit are in my hall linen closet. It works for me.

I use few meds in general, and the only painkiller I use is aspirin. I just checked the bottle: 3 tabs left out of 250. Expiration date: May 2001. They still look fine to me…