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“Refining our prescription drug dating process could save billions,” he says.But after a brief burst of attention, the response to their study faded.The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing.Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.After Cantrell and Gerona published their findings in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, some readers accused them of being irresponsible and advising patients that it was OK to take expired drugs.Cantrell says they weren’t recommending the use of expired medication, just reviewing the arbitrary way the dates are set.In fact, the federal government has saved a fortune by doing this.
But the dates don’t necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they “expire” — just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable. One answer, broadly, is waste — some of it buried in practices that the medical establishment and the rest of us take for granted.
Gerona had grown up in the Philippines and had seen people recover from sickness by taking expired drugs with no apparent ill effects. “Who gets the chance of analyzing drugs that have been in storage for more than 30 years?
” The age of the drugs might have been bizarre, but the question the researchers wanted to answer wasn’t.
All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers.
The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations.