Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Make sure to check the expiration date of all medicines.

Make sure to check the expiration date of all medicines.
beginning of content

Out of date medicines

Have you ever wondered what the expiry date in small print on the packaging of your medicine really means? Understanding how to get the most from your medicines includes knowing how to work with the expiry date.

Expiry dates

When medicines are manufactured, by law they have to be given an expiry date. This is the date after which they are not expected to be as effective as they should.

Medicines lose their effectiveness over time because the chemicals in medicines can be broken down to inactive products by the effects of heat, light or oxygen. At worst, taking old medicines can be fatal if they’re for the treatment of serious conditions.

Expiry dates can vary widely between different medicines and forms of medicine. For example dry tablets are likely to have a later expiry date than liquids.

Medicines to watch out for

You need to be particularly careful with certain medicines for life-threatening conditions like:

Eye drops are another special case. They can become contaminated with bacteria. A general rule is to never use eye drops after the expiry date, and to throw them out 28 days after you’ve opened them, even if it is before the expiry date.

Safe storage of medicines

For your medications to stay effective until the expiry date, you need to store them properly. Follow the instructions on the packaging, which might include storage below 25°C, in a dark place or in the refrigerator at about 4°C. And out of reach of children.

And it’s a good idea to clean out your medicines cupboard every 6-12 months.

What to do if you've been taking expired medicines

If you discover that you have been taking expired medication, talk to your pharmacist or your doctor. You might need to get a fresh, fully active batch.

It's a good idea to check all of your medicines regularly and get rid of any that are out of date or that you no longer need. Take the unwanted medicines to your pharmacy for safe disposal – flushing them down the toilet or putting them in the rubbish can harm the environment.

Last reviewed: May 2016

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 80 results

Unused medicines - what to do with them?

While it may seem wasteful to dispose of unused medicines, saving them ‘just in case’ can be dangerous. Most medicines deteriorate with time, which can lead to changes in their chemical composition. These changes can result in them becoming toxic or less effective if they are used after their expiry date.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Storing and disposing of medications

How to store and dispose of your over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications safely and responsibly.

Read more on WA Health website

Medicines for your child

Here is some practical and reliable advice about giving your sick infant or child medicine, including what is the right dosage and possible side effects.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Complementary Health

Complementary Health has grown in popularity in Australia both in terms of complementary medicines and visits to complementary health practitioners.

Read more on NSW Health website

Changing Australian medicine names | Issue 3 | Volume 40 | Australian Prescriber | Australian Prescriber

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is changing the names of approximately 200 medicines.

Read more on Australian Prescriber website

Using medicines

Medicines are an important part of healthcare. Here are some useful links to help you with your use of medicines

Read more on Consumers Health Forum of Australia website

Tips for Managing Medicines

Keep a list of what medicines you have and why you are taking them. This is helpful if you have more than one doctor.Take your medicines lists to appointments. You may find that organising these different scripts takes time. Make sure you have enough medicines to last over weekends and public holidays.

Read more on CareSearch website

Medicine and poisons safety in the home

Reliable and trusted advice about the importance of child-resistant packaging, how to reduce the risk of poisoning and what to do if your child swallows a poison.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Cough and cold medicines for children - changes | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

This TGA behind-the-news article was published on 26 November 2012.

Read more on TGA – Therapeutic Goods Administration website

Treatment of Headache - No Absolute Cure - Headache Australia

While there is still no absolute cure for headache, there are a number of treatment options, both medications and other forms including complementary therapies. ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR MEDICAL PRACTITIONER before taking any form of treatment. (Please note-advances in medical science occur rapidly and some of this information about medications and treatment may soon be out... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo