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Review of Expiry Date Advice

Review of Expiry Date Advice

Some manufacturers state that for certain items like creams, oral liquids, eye drops etc. the product must be discarded X days or months after first opening. If this is the case, the manufacturer will print a once-opened/discard-by date on the package. It may also be written in the patient information leaflet.

If the manufacturer has stated a once opened/discard by date, this must be adhered to and we advise you write both the once opened date, plus this discard-by date in pen, on the pharmacy label.

Previously, CQC and the NHS used to also apply some default dates to these types of product (where the manufacturer did not specify a once-opened date). These dates are mentioned in our books and are based on a research study carried out by the NHS in 2001 (full reference in our book).

However, NICE have now stated that these default once opened/discard by dates no longer apply and many CCGs have taken up this advice as throwing away these types of products unnecessarily causes waste. Hence we are updating the advice that we have previously given out in our books. The advice will be updated with the next version we print.

The change came from NICE. This is advice that CQC should follow, but they may need challenging on this as they may be unaware. NICE now state:

The Guideline Development Group concluded that provided the medicine is still currently prescribed, is within its expiry date and the manufacturer’s literature does not specify a short shelf-life (the recommended maximum time that the medicine can be stored for as stated in the manufacturer’s literature during which the defined quality of the medicine remains acceptable under expected (or specified) conditions of storage) when the product is opened, there is no requirement for the medicine to be disposed of early and it should be carried forward to the next 28-day supply cycle”.

This advice is on page 132 of the full 223-page NICE guidelines (not the summary version). You can find it here:

As a result, in line with many CCGs who are working hard to reduce waste, we now advise:

All products, once opened, may be used up to the manufacturer’s expiry date unless the manufacturer advises otherwise.

Exceptions would be printed on the product packaging and/or on the pharmacy label.

We still advise that eye drops are discarded 28 days after opening, unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer. However, there are an increasing number of eye drops available now (such as Hylo) which can be kept for several months due to advanced delivery systems.

We still advise that ‘opened’ dates are written onto the product. This is to prompt the carers to look for any potential ‘discard after…’ dates on the packaging.  It also helps to ensure that short courses are not accidentally prolonged, particularly when a short course begins towards the end of a cycle and runs over onto a new MAR chart.

If you want more information or want to discuss how this might affect you, call us (01273 917210), email us or click here to find out about our open workshops running this month.

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Prepared by: Vicky Rowell MRPharmS and John Greene MRPharmS. Prescription Training.