Mayo Clinic: Most Drugs are Safe & Effective Well After Their Expiration Dates



In a study of 122 different medications that were about to expire, the FDA found that over 90% of them met the requirements for an extension – on average, for a period of over five years. In fact, in another study, that 90% rate held true for drugs that expired up to 40 years earlier.

These findings are published in the Mayo Clinic commentary Extending Shelf Life Just Makes Sense, which points out that expiration dates are misleading for one simple reason: FDA rules require drug manufacturers to test their products for safety & effectiveness for only two to three years after they’re made available – and so no further testing is ever done.

The result is colossal waste which is passed on to the consumer by way of high drug prices (so notice who benefits). Billions of dollars of prescription drugs are trashed every year that sit in federal & state government facilities, hospitals, and pharmacies. Tufts University Medical Center in Boston, for example, throws out some $200,000 worth of prescription medicines every year. There’s about 4,000 hospitals in the US so the total annual waste for them alone is around $800 million.

This practice also results in drug shortages. In the 122-medication study mentioned above, 15 of the drugs were designated by the FDA as “top performers.” And of those 15, 12 were in short supply since 2013. Where this will especially matter is if the short supply meds are needed for a national emergency such as a pandemic.

Accordingly, we should support the Mayo Clinic proposal of requiring drug companies to keep testing their products or have an independent agency do it and, in either case, immediately grant shelf-life extension to drugs that the FDA has monitored for years and have found to be stable.

In depth reporting can be found at ProPublica and NPR from which the following interview is taken:


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