Is It Safe to Use Expired Medication?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts

What are the dangers of using expired medications, and how should expired medications be disposed of?

Doctor's response

Like food, medications have expiration dates.  This means that when stored under the proper conditions of light, heat, temperature and moisture, medications will be effective and safe until the expiration date.  After the expiration date, medications may deteriorate and not work as intended and may even be harmful.   If not stored under the proper conditions, medications actually may expire before the expiration date.  Using expired medications is similar to eating spoiled food.  Expired medications should be disposed of in such a way that children and pets do not have access to them.  Pills and liquids can be flushed down the drain or toilet.  Patches also should be flushed down the toilet because the unused or used patch contains enough medication to harm pets and children. 

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018