Are Medication Expiration Dates Accurate?

expiration date on medicine bottle

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What Preppers Need to Know About Their Medicine Cache in 2 Minutes.

prepper medicineIf you’re suspecting the expiration dates stamped on your medications are a ploy to keep you in the chain of perpetual consumption –then you’re spot on. In this post we’ll discuss what expiration dates really mean, why they are stamped on the bottle, and the actual shelf life of common prescription and over the counter medications.

Expiration Dates

The confusion began in 1979, when a newly passed law first required drug manufacturers to stamp expiration dates on their products. It was supposed to be the date which the manufacturer could still guarantee the full potency and safety of the medication. Likely the only regulation the pharmaceutical industry looked forward to implementing, these companies turned the table on the government, and assigned expiration dates that were ridiculously short.

Ironically, it was the government to first feel the sting of their genius legislation.

The Military Solution

The mid 80’s saw an unaffordable $2.5 million dollars spent each year by the military to replace expired medications. Not being able to cover the expenditure, and suspecting the dates may have been conservatively estimated by the drug companies, representatives from the Air Force Surgeon General’s office met with the FDA to establish a program for independently verifying the validity of expiration dates for more than 100 common medications.

Eight months later, the FDA finished their investigation and published their findings: At a minimum, 80% of medications, in 84% of lots tested, retained full potency 18 months after their stamp date. But the FDA acknowledged even these findings were overly conservative, and so in 1987 the Department of Defense was tasked with extending the study for several more decades.

DoD/FDA Shelf Life Extension Program

The program continued on until recently, when its focus shifted to testing products of “military significance” or with “significance to national security.” Today, access to their ongoing findings is limited to users from a “.mil” or “.gov” host. But before the information became inaccessible to many preppers, the study results found their way into the national press.

The findings were remarkable: 90% of more than 120 drugs, both over-the-counter and prescription, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.

Keep in mind testing was only performed on drugs that had been stored in unopened containers, and housed in a cool dry environment.

Medications Which Actually Expire

Some medications are known to be unstable. The EpiPen is a notorious example. Containing epinephrine, its efficacy fades quickly. Others include Tetracycline, creams like Silver Sulfadiazine, vaccines, and probably injectable insulin.

Take Home Message:

Kept unopened and sealed in their original container, most of your medications should be good for at least a decade… if not two. But since your Liptor is now apparently a National Security issue, finding particular details of the medications you rely on will likely require filing a Freedom of Information Act Request – or pulling a “Snowden.” In absence of those theatrics, my medical opinion is that nearly all of your medications should be good for 10-20 years if properly stored.

Additional Information and Resources: Shelf Life Information Paper


About US Preppers

Welcome and thanks for visiting! My name is Robert and our mission at US Preppers is to help you prepare for emergencies or disasters before they happen. As a family man and father of two boys, I am concerned about the future of our modern way of life. We know things can happen and we are not going to be complacent and let society dictate our survival.

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