Last reviewed by Miljan Krcobic on August 27th, 2018.
What is Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory drug that works by reducing hormones that are responsible for inflammation and pain in the body. Ibuprofen comes under the category of NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
Ibuprofen is mainly indicated in fever pain or inflammation associated with arthritis, menstrual cramps or minor injury. It is frequently used to treat a headache, toothache and back pain.
Does Ibuprofen expire?
Every medicine has a specific expiry date, which is marked for a reason. It is printed on the box in order to protect you from damaging your body and to cause the awareness about the reduced effectiveness of medicine in the body after the expiry date.
Usually, Ibuprofen has a longer shelf life but it may degrade 5-10% every year after the expiry date. Manufacturers provide a particular expiry date on Ibuprofen and they do not guarantee any benefit after expiry. Once Ibuprofen is expired, it loses its potency and it becomes unfit for use.
Does expired Ibuprofen still work?
Any expired medicines usually do not produce any harmful effects after expiry date but the effectiveness and potency of a medicine may reduce over time. Expired Ibuprofen may still work post expiry.
Studies have shown that expired Ibuprofen works effectively even after many years of expiry without causing any dangerous effects. One should avoid very high doses of expired Ibuprofen as it may prove harmful inside your body and can result in stomach ulcers.
Can I take expired Ibuprofen?
Any expired medication should not be taken as it may cause serious ill effects but still if expired ibuprofen is used for minor headaches and pain, it may not prove harmful. Expired Ibuprofen loses its effectiveness and potency post expiry date, so if you are taking an expired ibuprofen, it may not produce any effects after the expiry date. No manufacturer guarantee desired potency after the expiry of Ibuprofen.
As per a study was done by USFDA, on large stockpiles of the drugs, more than 90% of drugs are found effective and fit for use, even after 15 years of the expiration date and Ibuprofen was one of them. Therefore, the expiry date should not necessarily consider as a point where the medicine becomes unsafe for use or no longer effective.
However, it was also stated that effectiveness of any medicine might reduce over a period of time. Proper storage condition can enhance the shelf life of a medicine like Ibuprofen, so one should store the medicine in a cool place like the refrigerator.
Placing a medicine above the washbasin of your bathroom is the worst place to store any medicine because it can get humid and wet in bathroom temperature and it can get expire even before its expiry date. A High-Kitchen shelf (not above the stove) is the best place to store a medicine.
Does expired Ibuprofen cause side effects?
Expired medicines should never administer without proper information but Ibuprofen stays safe even after years of expiry date as per US military sponsored trial. Where more than 100 OTC (over the counter) medicines (including Ibuprofen) are found effective even after 15 years of the expiry date.
So expired Ibuprofen may cause side effects similar to unexpired Ibuprofen such as upset stomach, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, stomach ulcers or drowsiness may occur.
Can expired Ibuprofen make me sick?
Different formulations have different stability when it comes to medicines. A tablet may have a longer shelf life (up to 60 months) whereas a capsule formulation may have a much shorter shelf life (not more than 36 months). The effect of medicine also depends upon its shelf life apart from active ingredients and an expired medicine can make you fall sick if it gets rancid.
Stability of Ibuprofen depends upon the impurities present in the medicine. An impurity cannot be more than a 10th of the percent of a single dose, as even a single impurity is considered toxic.
For an example, if you take two tablets of Ibuprofen (400 mg each), you should not ingest more than 0.4 mg of such impurity, as it can prove toxic inside your body. Therefore, there are strict limits given by FDA for every medicine that each manufacturer should comply and should stick within the given limits.
Such impurities also increase with the passage of time as a degradant (degraded product) and are sufficient to make you seriously ill. If you do not store Ibuprofen at appropriate storage conditions, these impurities may double and can increase the risk of damaging of medicine. You should check Ibuprofen boxes for proper storage and should store them at certain temperature and humidity.
A drug cannot be sold if it is degraded into harmful by-products, even after showing proper potency, solvency, desired effects and zero contamination by bacteria because the certain by-products (degraded products) can affect the patient negatively.
Certain pills that contain inert substances (inactive ingredients) degrade faster than the ones with the only active ingredient. Such degradation products are highly important in stability testing and it takes a lot of extensive research to test the effects of these degradation products.
What will happen if I take expired Ibuprofen?
Normally, when you take an expired Ibuprofen, it does not cause any harm but it may not show the desired effect due to reduced potency over the period. However, if you have an Ibuprofen that is more than 15 years old, do not administer it as it may cause:
- Stomach ulcers
- Urinary tract infections
- Urine with a foul smell.
If already taken then avoid any strenuous activity as it may result in heart attack within half an hour of the following activity.
What should I do with expired Ibuprofen?
An expired medicine should never be thrown away or discarded in bins. If you have some expired ibuprofen, you should read the medicine’s label and follow the disposal instructions that are given on the label.
The proper disposal of medicine is necessary and an important issue that reminds everyone to dispose outdated and expired medicines and get rid of unneeded medicines.
Here is the visual showing how to dispose of medicines:
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