Pharmacies across the country — in major medical centers and in neighborhood strip malls — routinely toss out tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs when they hit their expiration dates.
Gerona and Cantrell, a pharmacist and toxicologist, knew that the term “expiration date” was a misnomer.
The news media is rife with stories of medications priced out of reach or of shortages of crucial drugs, sometimes because producing them is no longer profitable.
Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard.
“Refining our prescription drug dating process could save billions,” he says.
But after a brief burst of attention, the response to their study faded.
All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers.
The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations.
For decades, the federal government has stockpiled massive stashes of medication, antidotes and vaccines in secure locations throughout the country.After Cantrell and Gerona published their findings in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, some readers accused them of being irresponsible and advising patients that it was OK to take expired drugs.Cantrell says they weren’t recommending the use of expired medication, just reviewing the arbitrary way the dates are set.The dates on drug labels are simply the point up to which the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies guarantee their effectiveness, typically at two or three years. health care system is the most expensive in the world.But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable. One answer, broadly, is waste — some of it buried in practices that the medical establishment and the rest of us take for granted.