Outdated medications are more likely to lose potency and efficacy than cause toxicity. However, certain outdated drugs such as liquid antibiotics, eye drops, and nitroglycerin have the potential to harm patients.
Liquid oral antibiotics are susceptible to bacterial contamination once reconstituted due to nonsterile compounding procedures and the addition of nonsterile water. Therefore, review storage instructions for your medications and keep them refrigerated if directed.
Medicated eye drops are also susceptible to bacterial contamination, especially after being opened, although added preservatives help contain and prevent bacterial growth. Teach patients to properly administer eye drops without touching the dropper to the eye or any other surface.
Nitroglycerin is extremely sensitive to heat and moisture, which degrade the active drug. Therefore, patients who rely on it could be harmed if it becomes ineffective. This risk is compounded by the fact that patients are instructed to carry this medication with them to have on hand as needed, potentially increasing its exposure to sun and heat. Tell patients to keep nitroglycerin in its original glass amber vial away from light and heat. Educate patients on the importance of appropriate storage for all their medications.