How to know if a medicine is expired without an expiration date? 

In this article, we will talk about some physical signs of drug expiration that can help you determine whether the medicine is expired or not. We will also discuss the importance of knowing drug expiration dates. 

How to know if a medicine is expired without an expiration date? 

If a medicine does not have an expiration date or if the date is not clear, there are some simple ways to check if it might be expired. 

Firstly, look for any changes in the appearance, colour, or smell of the medication. If it looks different than when you first got it or has a strange odour, it could be a sign that it has gone bad (1).

Next, check for any visible signs of deterioration, such as crumbling or disintegration of tablets or capsules. Expired medications may lose their effectiveness and could be potentially harmful to use (1).

Additionally, if you have had the medication for a long time and cannot remember when you bought it, it’s safer to assume that it may be expired and should be discarded. 

However, you can’t always tell if a medicine has expired, as some medications undergo chemical degradation and it may not be visible to the naked eye. 

What are the different ways in which expiry dates can be mentioned on medicines?

Some medications may not have a proper expiration date with a specific year or a specific date. Expiry dates can be mentioned in different ways, including:

Best before date

You may see a best-before date on a medicine, instead of a proper expiry date, which indicates that the drug is expected to be at its highest quality and effectiveness before the date mentioned on the packaging. 

After this date, the drug may still be safe to use, but its potency and efficacy may start to decline. It is best to use the medicine before the specified date to ensure maximum benefit.

Use within date

Some medications may have a use within date, for example, “Use within 2 years of opening”.

For certain medications, especially liquids or creams, the packaging may mention a specific time frame (e.g., 2 years) within which the drug should be used once the container is opened. This ensures that the drug maintains its intended properties and is safe for consumption during that period.

When in doubt about the status of your medication, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional or a pharmacist. They can help you determine if the medicine is still safe to use or if it’s time to dispose of it properly, as expired medicines should never be used.

The FDA strictly warns against the use of expired medications, as you never know what side effects they may end up causing (1). 

What is the importance of drug expiry dates?

The drug expiry dates are crucial for our health and safety. They tell us the time until which medication is expected to be safe and effective when stored properly (2). 

Using medications after their expiration dates can be risky because the medicine might lose its potency and effectiveness, meaning it may not work as well as it should. In some cases, expired drugs can even become harmful, leading to unexpected side effects or health risks.

Why it is crucial to safely manage expired medications? 

It is crucial to safely manage expired medications to minimise the risk of accidental administration. As discussed earlier, lose their effectiveness or even become harmful once they are past their expiration date (1). 

This is why it’s important to safely discard them. By safely disposing of expired medicines, we ensure that they don’t accidentally get used, protecting ourselves and others from potential harm (3). 

Properly managing expired medications also prevents the risk of accidental mix-ups with current medications, ensuring that we are using the right medicine at the right time for our well-being.

To dispose of expired meds properly, check if there are any medication take-back programs in your community or ask your local pharmacy for guidance (4). These programs ensure that medications are disposed of safely and in an eco-friendly manner.

If no take-back programs are available, you can simply remove the medicine from its original container and mix it with something undesirable. Make sure you wrap the waste products tightly to avoid contamination and throw it in the trash.

These simple steps can help you dispose of expired medications properly. This way, you’re not only safeguarding your health but also contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for everyone.


In this brief article, we have discussed checking degradation signs on a medicine that does not have a proper expiration date mentioned on its packaging. We have also discussed the importance of the safe management of expired medications. 

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines [Internet]. Silver Spring (MD): U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available from:


Brion G, Bunkers L. Expiration Dating And National Drug Code Rules. 2023 May 1. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 34033382.


Nepal S, Giri A, Bhandari R, Chand S, Nepal S, Aryal S, Khanal P, Moktan JB, Shastry CS. Poor and Unsatisfactory Disposal of Expired and Unused Pharmaceuticals: A Global Issue. Curr Drug Saf. 2020;15(3):167-172. doi: 10.2174/1574886315666200626164001. PMID: 32589562.


Stoddard KI, Hodge V, Maxey G, Tiwari C, Cready C, Huggett DB. Investigating Research Gaps of Pharmaceutical take back Events: An Analysis of take back Program Participants’ Socioeconomic, Demographic, and Geographic Characteristics and the Public Health Benefits of take back Programs. Environ Manage. 2017 Jun;59(6):871-884. doi: 10.1007/s00267-017-0834-3. Epub 2017 Mar 3. PMID: 28258470.