Have you ever pulled a muscle and instead of going to the doctor, you took some odd pill left over from an old prescription? Well, this could actually do you more harm than good, and the Army is taking measures to deter Soldiers from using outdated medication by setting the expiration dates at six months past the date the prescription was filled.
The new policy (Army Directive 2021-21) states that absent an otherwise specified date from the prescriber, use of prescription substances defined as schedules II–V in 21 U.S.C. 812 will be considered expired and illegitimate for use six months after the most recent date of fill, as indicated on the prescription label.” So what does this mean? Schedule II-V prescription drugs will be considered expired and illicit six months after the date they were filled if there is no explicit date given by the prescriber.
Generally speaking, many prescriptions have an expiration date of one year after being filled at a pharmacy. While this means they can live longer in your medicine cabinet, it also means that you’ll likely forget about it until you experience those familiar aches and pains again… and totally ignore that faded little expiration date on the bottle.
You may say to yourself “so what’s the big deal if they were prescribed to me?” Much like our bodies, medications also age, lose their strength, and change composition, especially when exposed to heat, light, and humidity. There are often contraindications (interferences with other medications, food, and especially alcohol) that could affect the effectiveness of the medication and result in some gnarly consequences like additional health problems or even death.
Before you reach for that old prescription, ask yourself these questions:
T- temperature- are your medications kept at the recommended temperature?
O-have they been opened out of their original packaging?
S-are they stored in in a place where there is high humidity, like a bathroom?
S-has it been six months or more since you last used them?
If you answered yes to any of these, it is time to toss your old prescriptions and see your physician.
The best way to clear out your medicine cabinet of expired pills is to drop them off at a local drug take back site, many of which can be found at hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and pharmacies. To find a location near you, click here. If you are unable to drop off your old prescriptions at any of these sites, the FDA also provides a list of medications that can be safely flushed with minimal risk to the environment.
For more information, please check out the FDA’s guidance on expired prescription medication or talk to your local pharmacist.