Expired Medicine May be Efficient and Safe

Saturday, 23 February, 2019 - 06:15
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Even medicines that are years past their expiration date and haven’t always been kept in strict climate-controlled conditions may still retain their original potency.

In the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, researchers wrote that this is good news for people working in remote areas of the world where sometimes an expired medication is the only one available and the alternative is having no way to treat a serious illness.

Lead study author Dr. Emma Browne said: "The expiry date on a drug packet is the last date a drug company will guarantee the drug content and stability when stored in the recommended conditions and in the original packaging."

"This date is not necessarily the point at which the drug becomes ineffective or dangerous, and for many medications, this window may be far longer than the usual two-to-three-year expiry date," she told Reuters Health by email.

In some parts of the world, doctors face the difficulty of getting medicine more than once a year. It can also be costly for small communities or expedition groups to replace unused drugs, she added.

The study team tested the stability of five expired drugs that had been returned from the British Antarctic Survey, which operates five bases and two ships in the Antarctic region and has on-site medical facilities there.

Researchers noted that drugs for the Antarctic operation are ordered annually in May and shipped from the UK in September, arriving at the bases in December after spending several months at sea. The drugs tested by the research team made this trip a second time, when they were returned because they had passed their expiration date, the authors added. They tested five types of drug, all one to four years past expiration, and compared these to fresh samples of the same medications to see if the expired versions were chemically stable and retained their active ingredient.

Researchers found that all of the tested drugs were theoretically effective. The researchers caution that they did not know the exact temperature exposures the returned drugs had experienced.

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