University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Mary Ross, BSPH, MBA
Adjunct Associate Professor of Pharmacy
First Published: November 2000
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
If you wouldn't drink milk that was two months past its expiration
date, why would you consider taking medication that was outdated?
Over time, the chemical makeup and potency of medications
Taking outdated medications may also mean you are taking a pill
that is not going to help you says Mary Ross, UI Hospitals and
Clinics pharmacy supervisor. Many medications become ineffective past
their expiration date. Heat, cold, and moisture can also affect a
medication's potency. That's why the bathroom medicine cabinet may
not be the best place to store your medications. And it's probably
not the safest place to keep medications away from children.
Even if your medicine cabinet is "high up," children are
inquisitive and avid climbers. "They can easily reach a cabinet by
climbing from the toilet (or other convenient object) to the sink and
thus reach the cabinet," Ross says. Create a child-proof area that
can be locked. Keep medication lids tightly closed. A child-resistant
cap is meaningless if not properly fastened after each use.
Keep your medications in the container they come in because the
amber colored prescription bottles reduce the amount of light that
reaches the medicine. Avoid mixing different pills in one container.
They may chemically react or you may mistakenly take the wrong pill.
Keeping your medication in the original container helps insure that
you are taking the medication you intend to take and in the dosage
It also makes it easier to call your pharmacist for a refill if
one has been authorized. Don't call your pharmacist if you need a new
prescription or to renew your current prescription, only your doctor
can do that.
- Use only one pharmacy for all prescriptions.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all prescription and
non-prescription medications as well as the herbal or alternative
medicines you take.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any drug allergies you
have or problems or side effects you have had with your
- Never take medications prescribed for another.
- Don't stop taking your medication because you begin to feel
better. Complete the prescription.
- Throw away outdated medications.
- Never take medication in the dark. Turn on the light and
double-check what you are taking.
- Don't take more than the recommended dosage without consulting
Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about the possible reaction
alcohol or other drugs may have on your medication.