Prepper Pro Tip: Most Drugs Don’t Really Expire
ProPublica has stumbled across a bit of lore that preppers have known for years: most (all?) of the drugs you buy are shelf-stable for decades and don’t actually expire or even lose much of their strength, despite what the label says.
A pair of scientists stumbled across a cache of 30-year-old drugs and had a lab test them, only to find that most of them were at 100% of their original strength. Apparently the government has known about this fact for years, and uses it to save money on its own doomsday drug stockpiles.
For decades, the federal government has stockpiled massive stashes of medication, antidotes and vaccines in secure locations throughout the country. The drugs are worth tens of billions of dollars and would provide a first line of defense in case of a large-scale emergency.
Maintaining these stockpiles is expensive. The drugs have to be kept secure and at the proper humidity and temperature so they don’t degrade. Luckily, the country has rarely needed to tap into many of the drugs, but this means they often reach their expiration dates. Though the government requires pharmacies to throw away expired drugs, it doesn’t always follow these instructions itself. Instead, for more than 30 years, it has pulled some medicines and tested their quality.
The lesson for preppers is clear: don’t throw those drugs away. And don’t let your spouse throw them away, either. Just add them to your stash. In fact, you should be that weird guy who friends and family give their expired drugs to.
I’m not a doctor, so don’t you dare take this as medical advice, but I often skip the last one or two pills in a routine course of antibiotics and add those to my stash. Yeah yeah, I’m a terrible person for contributing to antibiotic resistance. I may not have a clear conscience, but when the SHTF I’ll at least have more drugs than the civic-minded folks who finish the whole course.
Update: As noted in the comments, there are laws against keeping prescription drugs around after the expiration date, and against having other people’s prescription drugs. That’s why I didn’t say anything about “prescription” drugs in the above post, and why nothing in the above should be construed as being about prescription medication. Everything I said above applies solely to over-the-counter meds, and nothing else. Obviously you should comply with all applicable laws and not possess anything that it’s illegal for you to own.