Medicine expiration dates are carefully generated after some repetitive laboratory tests, so the expiration dates on medicine have to be taken seriously. There are higher chances that the expired medicines may have become ineffective, less potent or even toxic after a certain time, so yes, they will hurt you if you take the expired medicines for some serious diseases. According to the FDA, the expiry date of medicine reflects the time period by which it may remain stable, maintain its strength, potency and quality. Furthermore, the suggested storing conditions are also very important, for a medicine’s effectiveness, as well as an expiry date of a particular medicine.

How to Read Medicine Expiration Date?

There are some suggested medication expiry date formats by the FDA. Most manufacturers use the same suggested format of year-month-date. Some manufacturers just use the year-month format to present an expiry date of a medicine. Most of the medicines have a printed expiry date of medicine on either side of a label in a generalized format of year-month-date or year/month/date. The year should be written in four digits while the month may be written either 2 digits (like 03) or the three english initials (like MAR). So, if you ever intend to buy the flu medicines over the counter in MD, you should clearly check its expiry date. Some manufacturers refer to the expiry as ‘expiry date’ and others refer to it as ‘used by’. You should be aware of its difference.

Expired by: You should not use that medicine after the end of a given month.

Used by: You should not use that medicine after the end of the previous month.

For example, one medicine has an “expiry date” of JUL,2022 – you should not take this medicine in August. One medicine has a “used by” date of JUL, 2022 – you can only take this medicine till JUN, 2022.

Will Expired Medicine Still Work?

Some pills in a woman's hand next to a box of pills

No! The expired medicines won’t be beneficial to any health recovery. Their efficacy and potency is no longer valid to cure a certain disease, so the expired medicines won’t do any good for any patient; instead, they may even be hazardous to some serious patients having low immunity because there may have been some toxicity introduced in an expired medicine after its expiry date, so we should avoid the expired medicine – no matter, how well we have kept it in a suggested storage conditions.

How Long Can You Take Medicine after the Expiration Date?

It is not advised to take medicine after its expiration date. You should not take the expired medicine even if it is kept in the suggested storage conditions or even if it has enough quantity for the next few doses. You just have to dispose of it properly by taking it to your nearest pharmacist.

Can You Still Use Medicine if it is Expired?

A man throwing a pill sheet into the trash

No! You can’t use the manufactured drugs once they are expired. They are just not potent anymore, so its efficacy is zero; plus, it may have been toxicated with the bacterial intervention. That’s why, the manufactured drugs are repetitively tested in labs to check their shelf-life and then their expected expiry dates are suggested by the experts according to the Maryland Pharmacy Laws. On the other hand, compounded drugs are not regulated by the FDA because they are made with the customized chemical process, so they may have a shorter life span. Sometimes, the compounded medications, that are made with the manufactured drugs, may even have a longer shelf life than the participating manufactured drugs. That’s one of the major differences between compounding vs the manufactured drugs. You may ask your compounding advisor if a particular compounding medicine is still potent or not after its suggested life shelf but the manufactured drugs cannot be used after the expiry date.

Can You Use Expired Tylenol?

According to Harvard Health Publishing , some OTC medications like Tylenol can maintain their potency upto a decade if they are kept in a safe storage under the ample temperature and humidity conditions. The tablets and capsules of Tylenol may be safe to use even after the expiry date if they are kept in optimal conditions. For example, you have kept your Tylenol tablets in the refrigerator and used it only once in a while in emergencies. So, they may still be potent after the suggested expiry date because they were still in good storage conditions.

Is it OK to Take Expired ibuprofen?

Usually, it is not recommended to take any of the expired medicines but several studies have pointed out that some OTC medications may remain potent for five-six years especially if they are anti-inflammatory. So, in case of severe emergency or urgency, you may feel relieved after consuming an expired ibuprofen. It may not be as potent as it would be before expiry date, but it may do the job to some extent.


Expired medicines may not actually hurt you but they may not be as potent or as effective as they would be in their suggested shelf-life. All the health authorities like FDA, DEA and Maryland Prescription Assistance Program always advise that you should not use expired medications; however, some studies also state that some of the OTC medications may remain potent for at least 5-6 years, if they are kept in their suggested storage conditions like a dry place and cold temperature. That’s why they claim that the tablets and capsules may remain potent for many years even if the printed expiry date has been passed. That’s why the expiry dates of some medications are extended after doing some lab tests; however, one should not tend to consume the expired medications just to save some bucks because it is a risky thing. The efficacy and potency are not just the two concerned matters for expired medications but they may become toxicated after a certain time. Furthermore, once some particular medicines are sealed off, it may be advised to consume them within 4-5 weeks because of a probable exposure with the bacteria. So, it’s a risky thing to take an expired medicine on your own. Always consult superior health advisors or certified pharmacists, who refill your prescription in Maryland,  before consuming any expired medications.