Beyond-Use and Expiration Date Differences

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A beyond-use date is a date placed on a prescription by a pharmacy for compounded medications they prepare, noting when that prescription should no longer be used. It will often say "discard after ..." or "do not use after ..."

How the Beyond-Use Date Is Determined

This date is determined by the pharmacy when they prepare a compound prescription based on different factors, including:

  • The type of drug and how fast it degrades
  • The dosage of the medication
  • The type of container being used
  • The storage conditions the medication is expected to be in
  • How long the medication will be taken
  • How likely it is that there will be any sort of contamination while the prescription is being filled

Is Beyond-Use Different From Expiration?

The beyond-use date is different than an expiration date of a drug.

An expiration date is a point set by the manufacturer at which they can no longer guarantee the strength or safety of a medication. Because the expiration date is established by testing a drug in specific conditions related to storage containers, lighting, temperature, etc., this date, as per the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is compromised by changing any of these conditions. This includes moving a medication to a different container, which is the normal practice for pharmacies dispensing prescriptions.

Beyond-Use Date
  • The date when the compounded prescription should no longer be used

  • Determined by the pharmacy when they fill a prescription

  • Based on the type of drug, how fast it degrades, dosage, type of container, storage conditions, prescription length, the likelihood of contamination

Expiration Date
  • The date at which a manufacturer can no longer guarantee the strength or safety of a medication

  • Determined by the US Food and Drug Administration

  • Based on testing a drug in specific conditions related to storage containers, lighting, temperature, etc

Importance of Expiration Dates

The FDA says it's dangerous to take medications after their expiration date because they may not be as effective, their chemical composition may have changed, or they may have deteriorated to a point where harmful bacteria could breed.

Particularly with antibiotics, it's important to watch the expiration date because using an expired antibiotic means it may not be potent enough to completely treat your infection, leaving you at risk for a worse one.

The bottom line is that it is best to not use expired medications because there is no guarantee that they will work the way they are supposed to and they may even make you worse.

How to Safely Store Medications

Medications need to be stored safely to help keep their chemical compositions intact and stop them from becoming breeding grounds for bacteria. Storing them properly until they are expired keeps them safe and at maximum potency.

  • Make sure you are storing your medication according to directions. If the prescription says to store it in the refrigerator, make sure you do. If it says not to expose it to high temperatures, don't store it right next to the stove.
  • Store most medications in a cool, dry area. Bathroom medicine cabinets, though a popular place to store your medications are not a good idea because of the heat and steam that accumulate during showers. This can lead to your medications becoming less effective or even dangerous before the expiration date.
  • Consider locking them up. Prescription drug abuse is at an all-time high and accidental overdosing and poisoning does happen when kids or pets get into medications. A locked box may be a wise solution.
4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. US Pharmacopia. USP compounding standards and beyond-use dates (BUDs).

  2. Ohler J, Miller C, Sheridan D. How do expiration and beyond-use dates compare?. Nursing. 2019;49(3):17.  doi:10.1097/01.NURSE.0000553290.72084.04

  3. US Food & Drug Administration. Don’t be tempted to use expired medicines.

  4. US National Library of Medicine.Storing your medicines.

Additional Reading

By Kimberly Read
Kimberly Read is a writer with experience covering mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder.