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Pharmacy and Medications

A question about really old prednisone

08/30/2006

Question:

Recently my Mom has found a bottle of prednisone that hasn`t been opened once since it was prescribed in 12-08-93.

I don`t know what the expiration date is but, I`m sure by now it`s passed.

Can anything bad happen to her from taking this?

Answer:

As a general rule, unless labelled with a specific expiration date, prescription medicines kept in the sealed prescription vial as dispensed may be considered within date for 6 months after they were dispensed by a pharmacist. After six months, the product may not reliably deliver the labelled dose due to gradual decomposition of the medicine.

Most medicines do not break down into dangerous substances.  Instead they just breakdown.  Therefore they won't provide the dose listed on the label.  The main danger in this situation is that the patient will not get the dose the doctor intended and this could lead to a treatment failure.

You describe a medicine that was filled 13 years ago. It was prescribed based on the assessment of a doctor at that time. Even if the medicine had an unlimited shelf life, is not likely to be relevant to a patient's current condition. 

Our advice is to discard this old medicine and see a physician if you are feeling sick. If needed, the physician can prescribe an appropriate medicine. 

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Response by:

Robert James Goetz, PharmD, DABAT
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati