Does Azithromycin Expire: Everything to know about expired antibiotics

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It’s relatively common to have a bottle or a few pills and tablets left over after completing an azithromycin treatment course. Sometimes, due to the costs, people are tempted to take these unused antibiotics the next time they get an infection instead of visiting a doctor for a new prescription. In this article, we’ll focus on azithromycin and answer questions like, does azithromycin expire? Like other consumable food and drinks, azithromycin and other medications come stamped with “best before” or expiration dates.

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Does Azithromycin Expire?

Yes, like all other medications and ingestible food items, azithromycin comes with best-before or expiration dates. In the U.S., drug expiration dates are typically between 12 and 60 months from the date of manufacture.

Is Azithromycin Still Good After the Expiration Date?

Azithromycin, which is just past its expiration date, may still be good to take. However, the longer time has passed since the indicated expiration, the less effective the antibiotic will likely be.

Continuing to take the medication despite being aware it has expired means the patient will knowingly carry a higher risk of potential adverse effects.

Per official recommendations from the FDA, avoiding taking any azithromycin that has already expired is safer. But, of course, this fact also applies to other antibiotics and drugs.

What Are the Possible Effects of Taking Expired Azithromycin?

Antibiotics past their expiration date can significantly risk the patient’s health and safety.

Expired azithromycin may not be potent or stable enough to treat infections. This can be equivalent to taking the wrong dose of antibiotics. As such, taking expired azithromycin may cause antibiotic resistance.

In turn, this can result in more severe illnesses. Developing resistance to azithromycin may also make it harder to treat future infections, leading to more extended recovery periods, more frequent hospitalizations, and more expensive treatments.

What To Do If You Take Expired Azithromycin

When ingesting expired azithromycin, observing your body for any adverse effects or symptoms is best. Consult a doctor after watching your body for any adverse effects or signs of toxicity and other conditions.

If you exhibit prolonged, continuous, or severe side effects, make sure to see a healthcare professional or visit an emergency care provider immediately.

Does Azithromycin Expire: 7 common side effects of azithromycin

Special Instructions for Azithromycin

There are no special dietary instructions for taking azithromycin. It is also not associated with any risks for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

However, individuals who have previously had jaundice or any liver problems are strongly advised against taking azithromycin. Naturally, people allergic to azithromycin and other macrolide antibiotics like clarithromycin and telithromycin are also advised against taking the drug.

Azithromycin has several known drug interactions. Therefore, patients must inform their physician if they are taking the following medications to change their prescribed dose or medication and prevent potential adverse reactions.

  • Bepridil
  • Ergonovine
  • Thioridazine
  • Amoxapine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Citalopram
  • Imipramine
  • Morphine
  • Tacrolimus
  • Warfarin

How To Take and Store Azithromycin

Azithromycin tablets are best stored in a cool, dry place at room temperature. Avoid storing solid dosage form azithromycin in the refrigerator unless the packaging explicitly instructs. Additionally, avoid storing the tablets above a stove or sink or near windows to keep them away from heat, moisture, and direct light.

It is best to store liquid or oral suspension azithromycin in the refrigerator.

However, do not refrigerate or freeze extended-release oral suspension azithromycin. Once the suspension powder has been mixed with water, consume the antibiotic within 12 hours or throw it away.

Moreover, ensure to discard or dispose of any oral liquid azithromycin once it has passed ten days after opening or after completing the prescribed doses. As with all antibiotics and medications, make sure to keep them out of reach of children.

How Long Are Azithromycin Tablets Good For?

Medical professionals recommend taking azithromycin tablets within their expiration date for best results. However, a small study involving a penicillin-type antibiotic showed that drugs between a year to four years past expiration still showed notable stability and efficacy. In addition, solid dosage forms like tablets and capsules generally exhibit better stability and minimal visible degradation than liquid or suspension dosage forms.

However, take note that any antibiotic will pose a potential health risk if taken past its best-before date. As such, it is recommended to consult a doctor before taking any out-of-date medication.

If in a pinch and there is no other option other than taking expired azithromycin tablets, check the appearance of the drug before taking it. Changes to the appearance or smell should always be considered as an immediate warning against taking them.

Does Azithromycin Expire: What Is the Shelf Life of Azithromycin?

There is a slight difference between a drug’s shelf-life and expiration date. In general, the shelf-life refers to the quality of the drug over a specific time. Meanwhile, the expiration date refers to both the quality and safety of taking the medication beyond the specified date.

Storage conditions can significantly affect shelf-life, particularly once the medication has been opened or transferred from its original container.

Depending on the azithromycin dosage form, its shelf-life differs significantly from its expiration date.

Azithromycin oral liquids or suspensions kept in the refrigerator only have a shelf-life of 10 days once opened. Therefore, unused azithromycin liquid or suspension should be discarded after that period.

Dry mix suspensions or suspensions that require the patients to mix themselves only have a shelf-life of 12 hours once the water is added to the powder.

When To See a Doctor

In general, it’s best to visit a doctor for a new azithromycin prescription. However, it is also better to consult a medical professional. In addition, you should get a formal diagnosis for any symptoms you may be exhibiting instead of taking an old antibiotic.

Moreover, make sure to see a doctor should you experience any extended or severe side effects after taking expired azithromycin.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

No. In general, it is safer not to ingest any expired antibiotics. For example, taking azithromycin that has expired for more than two years is a risk to your health and safety.

Once an antibiotic or any other prescription drug has passed its expiration date, there is no longer any guarantee that the product is safe for consumption or will work as intended. Any change in the drug’s appearance or smell should be taken as an immediate warning against ingesting them.

As per the advice of the FDA, taking any antibiotic, drug, or medication is never recommended beyond their expiration or best before date.

Antibiotics that are past their expiration date present a considerable health risk. Aside from failing to treat infections due to decreased potency, taking expired medications may also cause antibiotic resistance and other more severe illnesses. In addition, some drugs pose more significant risks than others.

In particular, antibiotics belonging to the tetracyclines class can become toxic once past the expiration date. In addition, expired doxycycline and minocycline can potentially cause Fanconi syndrome, a disease associated with kidney damage and dysfunction.

Medications only a few days or so past their expiration may still be potent and effective. For example, one study found that 90% of over 100 prescription and over-the-counter drugs were usable even after 15 years of expiration.

In the case of antibiotics, though, taking ones well past their expiration date is a risk to your health and safety. This is because it may cause antibiotic resistance and other diseases or infections.

As such, ask your physician or a pharmacist about using specific expired medications is advised. But, overall, getting a new prescription and disposing of the expired antibiotic is still best.

Expired antibiotics in solid dosage forms, such as pills and tablets, may not immediately harm your health, provided they are stored in a cool and dry place. This does not include expired gel capsules, though.

If you accidentally took expired antibiotics, observing your body for any adverse effects or symptoms is best. Make sure to talk to a medical expert immediately if you present any severe side effects or signs of other infections or health conditions.

It depends on the antibiotic and its dosage form. For azithromycin oral liquids or suspensions, it is not advised to keep them in the refrigerator for more than 10 days. Make sure to discard any unused liquid azithromycin after 10 days or completing your treatment, whichever comes first.

For other antibiotics, a 10-day refrigerator storage duration is also advisable. Liquid or suspension amoxicillin may be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks or 14 days once mixed. Still, cefdinir may only be kept in the refrigerator for four days.

Tablets and pills are best stored at room temperature unless the packaging or a pharmacist expressly instructs you to keep them in the fridge. It is better to ask your doctor or pharmacist regarding storage instructions for specific antibiotics to be safe.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.