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Study: Some Expired Drugs Could Be Effective (But Don't Try This at Home)

A study published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows many prescription drugs could have a longer shelf life than assumed, in some cases much longer. But while the results could have important implications for drug companies, researchers are quick to caution consumers against applying the findings to their own medicine cabinets.

Why? For starters, the scope of this study only included tests for expired drugs' potency -  not their safety.

"When the average reader reads this, the take-home message is not, '€˜Your expired medications are safe to take,'" warned lead study author Lee Cantrell.

What's more, just because  some 'expired' meds may still be effective doesn't mean  yours necessarily are. All of the drugs tested in the study were in bottles that had never been opened. And the types studied - mostly painkillers and sedatives - are obviously quite different than, say, cholesterol medicine or antidepressants. While neither are likely to become toxic over time, they can become ineffective and ineffective medications can be just as dangerous if you rely on them for treatment.

But the study results could convince policy makers and/or drug makers that it's time to take another look at certain drug expiration dates. Of the 14 compounds the researchers analyzed, 12 still fulfilled government requirements for potency, although they had officially expired 28 to 40 years earlier (the exceptions were aspirin and amphetamine).

"If manufacturers were required to do longer-term stability tests, it could be an enormous cost-saver for consumers," said Cantrell.

Tuesday Quick Hits:

Disappointing Alzheimer's drug may have some memory benefits. In clinical trials this year, Eli Lilly & Co.'s solanezumab missed major targets of slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease or improving daily functioning. But further analysis show it may be helpful for patients with mild cognitive decline.

Fake pet, real companionship. Remote-controlled critters could soon provide isolated or ill seniors with a constant companion, reports Bloomberg. Company GeriJoy Technologies will introduce software that allows users to communicate vocally with an electronic dog named Buddy on their computer, phone or tablet screens.

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