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September 13, 2007


Question from Pennsylvania, USA:

When renewing my son's prescriptions this month, I noticed the insulins and the test strips had an expiration date that was earlier than the last time I renewed the prescription. Should I be concerned with this? It makes sense that each time I pick up a new prescription, it should have an expiration date later than the prescription months before. This was not the case. Regardless, all insulins and supplies were not expired, but nonetheless, I would like to understand how this may happen. Is it a distribution issue, a manufacturer issue or a pharmacy issue?


Varying expiration dates could be the result of a number of issues: distribution and stocking are just two. Manufacturers ship batches to local distributors who then shelve the drug awaiting shipment to retailers. Local distributors typically rotate drug supplies on the shelves to keep the most recent arrivals for later shipping (not much different than what your local grocery does with milk!). The drug is then shipped from the local distributor to the retail pharmacy. The pharmacy may receive the same drug from several distributors (thus the varied lot numbers and expiration dates). The same storage practices are then used at your retail pharmacy: today’s arrivals are typically placed at the back of the shelf.

So, what should you concern yourself with? Just as you did, watch the expiration dates. As long as the date is current (not expired), you should feel confident that the drug is fresh.