From NPR, we have a story about drug expiration dates; specifically how most drug expirations dates are probably ridiculously under-estimated. Why?
The idea that drugs expire on specified dates goes back at least a half-century, when the FDA began requiring manufacturers to add this information to the label.
Ok, sounds like a good idea, right? However, coming up with accurate expiration dates would require waiting until the medication actually expires and then reporting on that date; an actual 35-year expiration time would require waiting for 35 years. Simulation and extrapolation is the answer.
To determine a new drug’s shelf life, its maker zaps it with intense heat and soaks it with moisture to see how it degrades under stress. It also checks how it breaks down over time. The drug company then proposes an expiration date to the FDA, which reviews the data to ensure they support the date and then approves it. Despite the difference in drugs’ makeup, most “expire” after two or three years.
Ok, sounds reasonable. But then, we have this:
For decades, the federal government has stockpiled massive stashes of medication…
Though the government requires pharmacies to throw away expired drugs, it doesn’t always follow these instructions itself. Instead, for more than 30 years, it has pulled some medicines and tested their quality.
Got that? The government mandates that the general public throws out “expired” medication that is almost certainly still potent, but doesn’t have to perform that duty itself. The result? Almost all drugs have a two to three year lifespan due to regulations, and up to $800 million dollars worth of perfectly good medication are trashed each year.
Because the government says so.