Take expired drugs!

Normally I scoff at News You Can Use, but this seems worthwhile passing along.

Suffering thru my second consecutive cold, I pulled out all the drugs I brought with me to China in 2004. To my dismay, they were all expired. That doesn't seem right, I thought, how could drugs expire?

A quick search on the internet turned up two kinds of results: 1) "Over the counter drugs and You" type lists on how to safely take drugs - all advising you to quickly throw away any expired drugs (no further explanation); 2) articles referring to a huge study the US military did on all its pharmaceuticals to see if they'd have to spend $100 million every year to replace expired drugs. The study found that the vast majority of drugs were safe and effective well past their expiration dates - up to 15 years afterward. (See this article from The Wall Street Journal.)

So now we know that pharmaceutical companies, in addition to defending the intellectual property system that kills thousands in poor countries by denying them access to drugs, also enjoys committing petty fraud against consumers in the rich world. As Francis Flaherty, the FDA pharmacist who did the study, put it, "Manufacturers put expiration dates on for marketing, rather than scientific, reasons. It's not profitable for them to have products on a shelf for 10 years. They want turnover."