A toxicologist and pharmacist both walked into an opportunity to analyze a box of long-expired prescription drugs predating the 1969 moon landing. The researchers wanted to study the effectiveness of expired drugs.
Roy Gerona, a University of California, San Francisco, pharmacist and Lee Cantrell, a toxicologist who helps the California Poison Control System, partnered up after Cantrell found the old drugs in the closet of a retail pharmacy.
“This was very cool,” Gerona told ProPublica. “Who gets the chance of analyzing drugs that have been in storage for more than 30 years?”
Pharmacies, according to ProPublica, “routinely toss out tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs when they hit their expiration dates.”
Gerona and Cantrell say “expiration date” is a misnomer. The Food and Drug Association and pharmaceutical companies mark a drug’s expiration date according to how long they can guarantee its effectiveness.
ProPublica reports a drug past its expiration date doesn’t “necessarily mean they’re ineffective immediately after they ‘expire’ … just that there’s no incentive for drugmakers to study whether they could still be usable.”