Got a call from an worried mother last night. She realized the mistake while giving cough syrup to her 6 year old. She was about to give 2 teaspoon, and suddenly glanced at the expiry date. The date mentions that the drug was expired 6 months back. The mum felt goosebumps throughout her body. She had given the same syrup in the afternoon. Her husband was out of town. She felt confused about her next course of action! And so she called me.
She was asking whether expired medicines are safe for kids? If not, whether she should take him to the hospital immediately? I assured her that her kid should be fine. And that almost 6 hours elapsed after the afternoon dose. The kid was symptomatically doing better.
Here are 5 facts about expired medications:
1. What does Expiration Date mean? The expiration date indicates the date that upto which the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug. At the time of the medication expiry date, the drug must be at least 90% of the original potency. And this should be under proper storage conditions. This date is a regulatory requirement. Expiration date safeguards a patient by delivering the drug when it is still potent.
2. What about the Potency and Efficacy of Expired medications? Expired drugs do not necessarily lose their potency and efficacy completely. However, drugs also have a shelf life. Shelf life is influenced by storage conditions, such as exposure to heat, light and moisture. A drug’s shelf life is usually shortened if it is not stored based on the suggestions in the label. That way even if a drug is within expiry date, but if not stored properly, it can lose its potency and efficacy. That can cause treatment failure!
3. What about the safety of expired medications? In the past, expired antibiotics of a particular type of tetracyclines were known to cause a form of kidney damage. Those tetracyclines are no longer available in the market. There are no other reports of adverse effects to expired medications. However, expired medications if taken in overdose can have serious safety issues.
4. What extra precautions must one take with liquid medications? Drugs in liquid form are not as stable as solid dosage forms. Some liquids may loose potency once the bottle is opened. That’s why, if one has liquid left over after the child has completed the course of treatment, its better to dispose it.
5. What are the drugs that should never be used past their expiration date? Antibiotics and other prescription medications, like insulin, should not be used at all once they pass their expiration date.
Is expired medicine safe for kids?The bottom line is that if your medicine has expired, do not use it. If you have used by mistake, observe your kid. The medicine may not directly cause safety threat. But may not effectively treat the disease. Also, its better to have a habit of checking one’s medicine cabinet on a regular basis. And follow safe disposal tips for expired ones.
My friends son was fine when I met him the next day. Thankfully the expired medicines did not have any ill effects. He was in his elements, running around the apartment with the other tykes.