The Truth About Expiration Dates

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As a physician,I get a lot of questions about expiration dates on medications, and whether medications should be thrown out once they hit that date. In the preparedness community, most of us accumulate medicines for use in an uncertain future. Part of that uncertainty is not knowing when or if our society will finally enter a full-blown collapse. Even government agencies wonder if all the medical supplies they’ve stockpiled will still be effective years after expiration. So, let’s discuss what an expiration date really means.

Expiration dates have been mandated for medications since 1979. The expiration date is the last date that the pharmaceutical company will guarantee that the drug is at 100% full potency. Except in very rare cases, there is no evidence that suggests that there is anything harmful about that medication if used after that date. In other words, they don’t magically become poisonous or cause you to grow a third eye in the middle of your forehead. Now that you know that, the question is whether the drug loses its beneficial effects and how fast it does so.

FEMA and the Department of Defense are government agencies that stockpile huge stores of medications for use in the event of a major emergency, such as a natural disaster or national emergency. FEMA has seen massive stores of medication expire, and so a study was commissioned to find out how effective these expired medications still were. This study is known as the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP). This program has evaluated at least 100 medications that were expired for at least 2 to 10 years at the time they were evaluated. This includes many commonly used antibiotics and other medications that could mean the difference between life and death in a collapse situation.

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