Medicines have expiry dates so that users can know when to stop using them.
After the expiry date, medicines may not be safe or as effective, experts say.
However, some drugs have “use by” dates, while others have “expiry” dates. What is the difference?
According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, if your medicine has a ‘use by’ or ‘use before’ date instead of an expiry date, this usually means that you should not take the medicine after the end of the previous month.
For example, if the ‘use by’ date is July 2020, you should not take the medicine after 30 June 2020.
In addition, experts also advise that you should not take medicines after their expiry date. So, if you’ve had a medicine for a while, check the expiry date before using it.
The expiry date usually means that you should not take the medicine after the end of the month given.
For example, if the expiry date is July 2020, you should not take the medicine after 31 July 2020.
They also advise that in terms of storage, you should make sure that you store the medicine properly, as described on the packaging or leaflet.
When taking your medicine, if it looks, tastes or smells different to when you first got it, even if it’s within the expiry date, take it to your pharmacist for advice.
You can find the expiry date on the medicine packaging or on the label. This may be stated variously as: expiry, expiry date, expires, exp, exp date, use by, or use before
Expiry dates are put on medicines by the manufacturer that produces the medicine, or the pharmacist who supplies the medicine.
If a doctor or pharmacist has given you any other instructions about using or disposing of your medicine, you should also follow these.
For example, your pharmacist may label a medicine: “discard seven days after opening.”
Some medicines are given a short expiry date, such as:
- Prepared antibiotic mixtures: when the pharmacist adds water to powdered antibiotic, it changes the stability of the product, and the pharmacist will give it an expiry date of one or two weeks, depending on the product.
- Eyedrops: these are usually given an expiry date of four weeks after first opening the container, because your eyes are particularly sensitive to any bacteria that might get into the eyedrops.
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