Drug Shortages Push First Responders to Use Expired Meds

By Carlton Purvis

FDA spokeswoman Sarah Clark-Lynn says the FDA is looking for solutions that would help responders and hospitals use expired medications during a shortage.

One way the FDA is attacking the problem of shortages is through drug manufacturers.

Last November, the FDA sent letters to drug manufacturers “reminding them of their legal responsibility to report the discontinuation of certain drugs” and asking them to voluntarily report if they saw potential for a drug shortage. The FDA says there has been a six-fold increase in notifications and 128 drug shortages have been prevented since the letters went out.

“We’re seeing fewer numbers of shortages occur--42 new drugs in shortage reported in 2012, compared to 90 new shortages at this time last year,” wrote Commissioner Margaret Hamburg on the FDA blog in May.

An interesting post by the Harvard Medical School from 2003 says drug expiration dates stand for something, but not what most people think:

Most of what is known about drug expiration dates comes from a study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration at the request of the military. With a large and expensive stockpile of drugs, the military faced tossing out and replacing its drugs every few years. What they found from the study is 90% of more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, were perfectly good to use even 15 years after the expiration date.

So the expiration date doesn't really indicate a point at which the medication is no longer effective or has become unsafe to use. Medical authorities state expired drugs are safe to take, even those that expired years ago.

thumbnail by Arenamontanus/flickr


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