Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- There’s been a big push recently to have us throw away unused or expired medications, but is it always necessary? A new study has found some common drugs, with active ingredients like Aspirin, maintain their potency well after the expiration date.
There’s actually more to it than just the number printed on the bottle. A number of factors could lead to the break down of many of the most common over-the-counter drugs.
The ones in the study were unopened and in their original container, unlike the way we probably store them. So, while the expiration dates aren’t exact, they do serve as a reliable guideline of when your meds may pass from safe into the unknown.
"A lot of times the cotton balls that come in the medication containers are there for a reason, to kind of soak up the humidity to prevent the degradation of the actual drug itself,” explained Dr. Alexander Garrard, with Upstate NY Poison Center.
Take something like Advil for instance, choosing a smaller size bottle might end up being better for you because you'll most likely use it by the expiration date, as opposed to the bigger and slightly cheaper 500 or 1,000 count varieties you see in some stores. You probably won't use it by the expiration date, so you're either wasting them by throwing them away or taking some that might not be effective or could even be bad for you.
"Ultimately, at the end of the day what's important is your health and your safety and I think you're taking a risk by using medications that have already expired,” Dr. Garrard said.
So while the study could prompt the FDA to look at extending some expiration dates, you probably shouldn’t reach for any expired meds next time you’re sick.
Dr. Garrard says when it comes to prescribed drugs you should absolutely follow the instructions given to you by your doctor and pharmacist.