Prescription Hope On Understanding Medication Expiration Dates

Updated on August 27, 2023

Every prescription medication has an expiration date printed on the pharmacy’s label. People are encouraged to properly discard their prescription medications that have been on the shelf for longer than one year. However, many patients may wonder whether the printed expiration date means that the medicine has actually expired.

Prescription Hope Inc. explains what is behind medication expiration dates and gives advice to patients whose medicine has expired.


In 1979, the Food and Drug Administration mandated that expiration dates be printed on all over-the-counter and prescription medicine packaging. The expiration date should guide patients on whether it is still safe to take the drug and whether it will work as originally intended.

Expiration dates can be found on the medicine label. They may be stamped on the carton or bottle, sometimes following the letters “EXP.” It is important to pay attention to the expiration date on your medication. Using an expired medical product can be risky and could harm your health.

Risks of Taking Expired Medication

Expired medication may be risky to take or less effective because it has changed in chemical composition over time. Expired medications may be subject to bacterial growth. Antibiotics that are taken past their expiration date may fail, leading to antibiotic resistance and serious illness. After the expiration date has passed, the medicine is not guaranteed to be safe and effective. If you have expired medication, do not use it.

How to Dispose of Expired Medication

On the prescription’s label, it may recommend a method of disposal. Generally, it is not recommended to dispose of prescription medication in the regular household trash. Drug take-back programs are the preferred method of discarding this medication. The DEA holds a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day where local organizations collect medicines.

In addition, drop boxes may be available at local police stations and fire departments. Call ahead to see whether your local first responders have a drug take-back box available.

If you have to dispose of your medication in the household trash, a specific procedure should be followed. First, mix your medication with a substance like dirt or kitty litter. Place the medicine in a sealed plastic bag. Put the container in your household trash.

In some instances, medications should be flushed down the toilet or sink. These medications could potentially be abused, and they may be harmful or fatal to pets or children. Some of these prescription pills include opioid pain medications. Check the FDA’s Flush List to determine whether your prescription should be disposed of in this manner.

To dispose of the prescription bottle, first scratch out all of the personal information on the label. This will make it harder for identity thieves to access information like your address and birthdate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are expiration dates important to check?

A drug expiration date reflects the time period in which the drug is safe and effective. Drugs must remain stable until their expiration date has passed, generally 12 to 60 months after production.

What are the risks posed by expired drugs?

If a drug has degraded, it may not provide patients with its intended benefit. It may have lost its strength or contain dangerous compounds that could cause unexpected side effects. If patients have a serious or life-threatening disease, they are especially vulnerable to the potential risk from expired drugs.

How are expiration dates determined?

The FDA requires that drugmakers provide evidence of stability testing. They must provide a proposed expiration date and name the storage conditions that will keep the drug safe as long as possible. The testing provides confidence that the product meets standards of purity, quality, and strength. The FDA is required to validate the applicant’s expiration date by checking its studies. Over-the-counter medications must also be tested in this way.

Is it important to keep drugs in certain conditions?

Yes, it is important to make sure that you follow the drugmaker’s instructions printed on the label when storing your medication. Temperature, humidity, and direct sunlight can all have effects on the potency and safety of a prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Keeping Medications Safe

Prescription Hope Inc. wants to ensure that all of its customers have safe, non-expired medications on hand. The company handles all refills on medicines for up to a year, meaning that customers will not have to take expired medication.

Prescription Hope was founded because its CEO, Douglas Pierce, was worried that his mother would not afford life-saving medication. He decided to make the system of applying for drugmakers’ assistance programs easy for the average consumer.

Taking an expired medication poses a risk to your health. Pay attention to the dates printed on labels and cartons, and make sure that you properly dispose of any leftover prescription medication when you are finished using it according to your doctor’s instructions. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.