Have you checked the expiry dates on your meds lately? Drug companies guarantee their effectiveness only to that point, but some questions on the validity of those dates have been raised. In the US, pharmacologist Lee Cantrell was given a stash of decades-old meds that had been forgotten at the back of a cupboard in a pharmacy. Researcher Roy Gerona analysed their potency, and in 12 of the 14 meds – ranging from antihistamines and painkillers to stimulants – the active ingredients were still as potent as they were at date of manufacture. When they published their findings they got flak for being irresponsible and for advising patients that it was fine to take expired drugs.
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They argued that they weren’t suggesting that expired drugs be used, but that the methods of determining expiry dates be reviewed. This isn’t the first time the issue has come up. Almost 20 years ago, a Wall Street Journal article reported that the US military asked the FDA to put expiry dates to the test, as they had stocks worth $1billion and had to destroy vast quantities every couple of years. The FDA checked over 100 different drugs and found 90% of them safe and effective – even 15 years after expiry. So, do we ignore those dates? Best you ask your pharmacist for advice. But when you do chuck any unused medicines, says the Self-Medication Manufacturers’ Association of SA, don’t throw them in the bin or flush them down the toilet. Instead, ask your pharmacy to discard them.
IUD UPDATE There’s a new IUD available: an IUB, or intrauterine ball, that’s strung with copper pearls. Once they’re placed in your uterus they start releasing traces of copper, which prevents pregnancy for up to five years. As soon as the pearls are removed, fertility is restored. The IUB is a third to half the size of previous types of IUDs, so it should be relatively easy for your doctor to insert – if your doc decides it’s the right contraceptive for you. So how well does it work? Published data on IUDs in general shows a pregnancy rate of 1%, an expulsion rate of 6–10.2% and a perforation rate of 1 in 909. But the copper pearls reduce these risks. Its contraceptive effectiveness is 99.89%. MDMA FOR PTSD You might not know it by its chemical name, but you may know MDMA as the party drug Ecstasy. Clinical trials have shown that it gives great relief to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The FDA recently approved a designation of ‘breakthrough therapy’, which means that they see it as having an advantage over available PTSD medications and will fast-track the process of development and review.