[COFFEE] Expiration of meds

Morning all. Since we’re in Pharma-heavy Switzerland- was wondering if there are any experts here who know if the expiration date of medication/drugs is a trick of big pharma to generate more sales? How does a pill actually deteriorate over time if it’s vacuum-sealed?

I was told by a pharmacist that the date was based on the amount of active substance left. Basically it becomes less effective as it degrades over time.


We do stability studies to determine the expiration date. If a medicine goes over that date. There is no data available to know exactly what happens afterwards. It highly depends on the medicine of course however oral solid dosage forms like tablets or capsules are more stable than liquids, or sterile (for example vaccines). It could be there is less active ingredient or some degradation product increase over time etc but it could also be that the ingredients are rock solid. Long story short if you want to be on the safe site do not use medicine after the expiry date.


I assume that a healthy „safety margin“ is included. A medication that‘s sold with an expiration date in two years won‘t go be worse if you take it a month or two after that (at least under good storage conditions).

That said, the more serious the illness and the more complex the active ingredients and their effects, the less likely I would be to take it after expiration.

Well that is hard to estimate. it really depends on several factors not only the active ingredient but also the package (blisters, bottles, ect.) there are some molecules in place which are rather all-day medicine but do degenerate quite quickly into health concerning degradation products. So again if you are not sure do not take any unnecessary risk just because you want to be mustachian style and not spend 2.50 CHF on a pain killer.

whichi means “do not take”. I don’t know who can be sure then.

That aside, meds prices in CH are a joke and wonder why no anti-trust investigation. Simple OTC allergy meds like Loratadin cost 1/4 of the price in Germany vs CH. Comparing purchase in local pharmacy canton ZH with local pharmacy in Southern Germany.
Biggest difference I’ve seen so far was on contact lenses saline solution. +500% in CH vs DE

I get the story about purchasing power and people earning more here and taxes lower (and maybe better quality in CH (meat)) in comparison. But for some products, they do really take a p!ss here in CH.


True, however one point to consider is that general Swiss person is focused on brands. I think (sorry no link found) that no other European country does have such a low percentage of generics. Just a small example which maybe sounds familiar. Mebucaïne is widely used in a lot of swiss households it has a lot of screen time also. However, it cost more than 3x more than Angina MCC which has the same ingredients.

Hi there,
Indeed, Swiss patients seem to love their branded products: Market share of generics is 14% by volume, dead last in Europe (latest data for 2019 at Statista).

As for using drug products after their expiry date, I’d err on the “no” side. It seems to be common sense to do some risk assessment, but who can really do that? Would you really want to take a chance, esp. when treating a non-trivial illness?

I think manufacturers would happily have longer expiry dates but are bound to prove stability under standardized conditions. But the regulations are clear: If specifications for the drug product are not demonstrably met, shorter expiry dates must be applied.

A little overview of whats required internationally can be found at GMPSOP or the WHO.

The international guidelines are also freely available e. g.



yep, scamming the swiss consumer with high price and only having mini package sizes available.

since it’s pollen allergy season again, I’ve just bought a pack of 100 tablets Loratidine in Germany at e10, so about 10 Rappen a tablet. this will last me till pollen season is over, approx 3 months.

Swiss pharmacies stock only boxes of 10 or 14 tablets, the latter for about Fr 8, so 100 tablets would cost me almost Fr 60.


To add a comment related to the thread title, … it depends… personally, I’d certainly take an expired well-known anti-histamine for allergy and an expired aspirin for a headache, but would throwaway an antibiotic, anti-malarial or heart-rhythm pills if over a year over the expiry date.

I’d like to add www.med.mymedi.ch to the discussion. Here you can compare prices of different medications that are available in Switzerland.

This for example should be Loratadin: mymedi - Medikamente