When you wake up with a headache, sore throat, and nasal congestion, there’s a good chance you’re coming down with a cold. Like millions of Americans, you probably head to your medicine cabinet to find something to alleviate your symptoms. Thankfully, you’re stocked up on cold medicine from last winter, but there’s one problem: it’s expired.
Just about everyone has an expired medication or two in their house, and it can be tempting to take those medications when needed rather than heading out to the pharmacy to replace them. But is taking expired medication safe or effective?
- Expired medications can be less effective. If you’re taking medication to treat a headache or cold, getting a less potent dosage of the active ingredient won’t have much of an effect. But if you’re taking medication to treat a serious health problem, getting less dosage than what your doctor prescribed can cause your symptoms and health to worsen.
- Expired medications may be prone to bacterial growth. Depending on the packaging or containers they’re stored in, some medications may begin to grow harmful bacteria, especially when they expired several years before they’re taken.
- Expired medications may undergo chemical composition changes. When this happens, the medications are no longer as they were when they were designed and manufactured, which means their effects on the people who take them can be unpredictable and potentially harmful.
Taking an expired medication is just one way that patients can be harmed by the drugs that are supposed to help them. Patients can also be seriously injured by drugs that are defective and dangerous.