Friday, March 2, 2012

Will Using Expired Drugs Kill You?

Cecil answers the important questions in his inimitable fashion.  The question, from Neil:
Is consuming expired prescription medicines really all that dangerous? Some friends of mine insist taking pills beyond the printed expiration date is flirting with death, while another claims expiration dates on labels are BS, there solely to prompt us to order refills and spend more money. I once treated a nasty headache with the only thing I had on hand, some Vicodin that was about a year out of date. My headache went away, and I was no worse for wear. As time passes, are the pills in their little plastic bottles chemically restructuring themselves into poisons, or is there nothing to fear?
The beginning of Cecil's answer:
We have to tread carefully here, Neil. A few drugs don’t age well — for example, nitroglycerin and insulin. But they’re the exception. Most drugs retain their potency for years after they supposedly expire. What’s more, everybody knows this, or ought to; the Wall Street Journal once ran a front-page expos√© on the subject.

But you don’t see anyone pushing for expiration date reform. Why not? No doubt because of the same combination of greed and excessive caution that drives up all healthcare costs: (1) The drug companies potentially could forego billions of dollars in lost sales; (2) the amount individual consumers could save is relatively trifling; and (3) there’s a remote but nonzero chance somebody relying on defunct drugs could die.
Read the whole thing.  You know you want to!

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