Have you ever gone into your medicine cabinet to take a pill only to realize that it expired a year ago? You wouldn’t be the first!

Many of us take expiration dates as mere suggestions–have you ever found yourself saying “the milk expired yesterday, but I’ll take my chances this time?” Well, you’re not the first to consider this conundrum. But have you ever wondered if that laid-back grocery store attitude can be trusted when it comes to medicine?

What does an expiration date mean?

An expiration date marks the final day that a manufacturer can guarantee the full potency and safety of a medication. For drugs, these expiration dates are required by law but are not guaranteed after the medication container has been opened. 

Though the expiration date for most drugs is arbitrary and can extend 12 to 60 months after the suggested manufacturer’s expiration date, using expired medical products can be both less effective and more risky. This is the result of changes that can occur in the medication’s chemical composition which can cause bacterial growth and sub-potency. 

If I can’t take expired medication, what do I do with it?

No, the answer here is not to leave it in your medicine cabinet like a refrigerator condiment from the 1990s! Unused medications pose not only significant health and safety risks, but improper disposal can have profoundly negative effects on the environment. 

Since 1996, the B.C. Medications Return Program (BCMRP) has ensured that the public can return (at no charge) any unused or expired medications to participating pharmacies across B.C. In line with this, the Government of Canada also offers these safe disposal guidelines to ensure prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals don’t pose a risk to you or to others. 

When in doubt, seek us out

Still worried about what to do with your expired meds? Come on in to Lakeside Pharmacy and talk to one of our experienced pharmacists to learn more about safe medication usage.


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