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Why should you get into the habit of checking the expiration date of your medicines?

Responsibility for the safety of authorized medicines lies not only with manufacturers and testing institutions but also with consumers. Medicines should be stored properly and used as recommended on the product leaflet. What are the risks of taking medication that is past its expiration date? How do you identify the expiration date, and why is it important to be aware of it?

Before medicines are approved for sale, they go through a series of tests. They are carefully tested for possible side effects. Those that do not meet safety standards are not marketed. However, it is not only the manufacturer or verification bodies responsible for the safety of medicines. The responsibility lies with the consumer as well. For medicine to maintain its properties, it should be stored correctly.

All information about the proper storage method should be included in the leaflet attached to the product. If the leaflet is lost, such information can be found on websites like Additionally, it is very important to pay attention to the product’s expiration date.

Safety and effectiveness

Every medicine approved for sale has a strict expiration date. This guarantees safety and effectiveness. Pharmaceuticals in pharmacies retain their therapeutic potential only for a certain time. It is up to the manufacturer to determine how long this is for each specific product and indicate this date on the packaging.

This can be seen as a declaration whereby the consumer has the right to expect that the medicine will work if used before the expiry date; the consumer also has the right to expect that the substances in the preparation will not decompose during the specified period.

Where can you find the expiration date of a medicine?

The expiration date is usually located in a visible place on the outside of the packaging. Sometimes it is on the bottle (if the medicine is a liquid), the tube (if it is an ointment, gel, or cream), the pill pack, protective films, and ampoules. Sometimes the expiration date is not printed but embossed and can be difficult to read. In this case, you should look at it under a light.

Expiration date vs. shelf life

Shelf life after opening differs from the expiration date. This date indicates when taking a certain medication is not associated with health risks (except, of course, for possible side effects specified in the package insert). Substances contained in some medicines are susceptible to external environmental factors.

Sometimes the structure of the former changes after a certain time. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to inform potential users of the product about the general expiration date and the acceptable shelf life after opening.

What are the risks of ignoring the expiration date?

It depends on the specific medicine. Some medicines lose their effectiveness after the expiration date, but they are unlikely to endanger a person’s health. Meanwhile, some can do serious harm once they expire. In particular, “life-saving” medications qualify for this second category: such as epinephrine or norepinephrine. Remember, pay attention to the expiration date.

Categories: Life