Monday, June 30, 2008

Will expired pills hurt you?

Sorry for the extended break, we have been vacationing and are getting back into the lab today.

Shannon left this question, which is a good one. The answer is, it depends on the pill.

In the studies of ibuprofen done over the past 30+ years (it's been around a long time!), we have learned that one of the impurities is considered toxic. For this reason, it impurity can't be more than a tenth of a percent of the dose (for example, if you take 400 mg of ibuprofen - 2 pills - you should not be ingesting more than 0.4 mg of this impurity). But that is the requirement for the manufacturers before it is shipped out to stores. We know that it also increases over time as a degradant. This is why ibuprofen pill boxes say to store it at certain temperatures and humidities. So if you don't store it at room temperature, how much will form over time? (we'll get an idea of this from our glove compartment study.) And is that amount enough to make you sick?

I have not found any studies in the literature about the amount that will make you sick. I want to talk to a toxicologist, because I know that the FDA is a lot stricter these days about the amount of a toxic impurity that can be present in a pill. So if ibuprofen were a brand-new drug today, would they say it is OK to have 0.1% of this impurity in it? I'm not sure.

I hope that answer is not too technical and boring.

Corby and I are observing that pills that contain certain inactive ingredients seem to degrade faster than others. I am not ready to tell you what that is yet, but if we are right, it will be interesting and hopefully get us published in a scientific journal. When we have some solid results, we'll share that with you.

In my opinion, if a drug has been on the market a long time, the impurities in it could not be too bad. Otherwise you would hear about it on the news and it would get yanked from the market. However, it is still not good to ingest more toxic things if you can avoid them. This is why I suggest storing medicine at its recommended storage conditions and throwing out expired medicine.

Also, the bathroom medicine cabinet is probably not the best place for storing it, since it gets pretty humid in there! I think a high shelf in the kitchen (away from the stove!) is a good place. But I will admit that most of my medicine is in the bathroom cabinet, because Matt does not like to see all that medicine.


Serina said...

My aunt gave me a bottle (270) ibuprofen 800mg. The expiration date is 11/08/2000. Do you think they would still be good? And if so, would you want them to help with your research?
My email address is:
I truly am curious to find out if they would still be good.

Serina Louve

Pharmacy Society said...

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Pharmacy Society said...

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