Jan. 16, 2024

Navigating Medication Safety: A User’s Guide to Expiry Dates and Beyond

Navigating Medication Safety: A User’s Guide to Expiry Dates and Beyond
Medication safety is crucial to ensuring the medication efficacy and well-being in today’s rapidly changing world. Though it’s essential, the expiration date of medications is often overlooked, which can adversely affect their stability and effectiveness. In this article, we examine some key insights every healthy person should know. Decoding expiry dates Depending on the packaging, you may see an expiration date expressed in a variety of formats. While some display the precise day, month and year, others may display only the month and year (in such cases it means that the medicine should expire on the last day of the mentioned month) or use numerical or two-letter abbreviations (e.g., JN for June, JL for July).
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Beyond-use date: Unveiling the leaflet’s most valuable feature The beyond-use date is a valuable piece of information that’s often missed by users. This crucial date determines the time period during which the medication will remain effective and safe, so always remember to check the last section of the leaflet before taking your medication. Keep in mind that the medication should not be used after the expiry date or the beyond use date – whichever comes first. Manufacturer’s word: A comprehensive guide With every medication, it’s vital to rely on the manufacturer’s guidance. Using this reliable resource, you can learn about storage conditions, beyond-use dates and exceptions that may have an effect on the shelf life of your medication. Time matters The shelf life of medications is limited after they are opened. For instance, eye drops, ear drops and nasal drops expire after 28 days. Using an expired eye drop may cause eye infections! 3 The expiry date is the same as the beyond use date for tablets and capsules packed in strips. In foil-wrapped strips, tablets and capsules remain stable for 1 to 3 months, whereas they last up to 6 months in bulk bottles after opening. However, there are exceptions, such as nitroglycerine tablets, which last only 8 weeks after opening.
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Forms matter: Liquids, solids and more Different forms of medication have varying shelf lives. A syrup or suspension typically lasts 3 months after opening, with some exceptions, such as suspensions coming in powder form like pediatric antibiotics (beyond use date is mentioned on the packaging), iron syrup (most are valid for 1 month after opening) and antacid syrup. 6 Ointments, topical solutions and creams have a different shelf life depending on their packaging. Those packed in tubes are valid for 3 months after opening, whereas a topical solution used for acne are valid for 2 months only after reconstitution (and should be stored in the fridge). As for those packed in jars, or topical solutions containing povidone iodine, they are valid for only 1 month after opening. 7 Some of these have an even smaller window, such as pain relief patches that are packed in foil (valid for 2 weeks from the date of opening each package) or creams used for burns like silver sulfadiazine (valid for only 7 days after opening, due to the low stability of the active ingredient). 8 Insulin pens are valid for 28 days after the first use and may be stored at room temperature (not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius), and the same goes for multi-dose vials and cartridges.
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When it comes to asthma medications, vials used for nebulization are single-use only – any remaining quantity has to be discarded within an hour of opening; the exception is normal saline may be used within 24 hours and more if specifically recommended by the manufacturer. Lastly, inhalers are valid for 3 months after opening, except when the manufacturer mentions otherwise. As an illustration, a Foster inhaler, which should be stored in the fridge, may be kept at room temperature for up to 2 months. 11 Extra tips for a safer experience
  • Always note the opening date of your medication.
  • Consult your pharmacist about proper storage conditions.
  • Read the package insert thoroughly for comprehensive information.
  • Recognize the importance of beyond-use dates in influencing medication stability and storage conditions.
  • Staying on the path to wellness requires a well-informed approach to medication safety. In the case of unused medication, consider disposing of it responsibly or donating it to an authorized site.
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