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Antibiotics Expiration Dates - Fact or Fiction?

Can Fish Antibiotics be Used Past their Expiration Date? fish-antibiotics-expiration.jpg does not sell any fish medications that are beyond the expiration date, but if you are prepping for a fish emergency, and have properly stored fish antibiotics on hand, then yes, you can use fish antibiotics well past the printed expiration date according to studies done (on medication and antibiotics, *albeit in humans) by Harvard University, JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), and the U.S. Government, among others. Unfortunately we could not find an official veterinary citation, but we will reference the studies done on prescribed drugs, specifically antibiotics, as they pertain to human use because the antibiotics involved are exactly the same, *manufactured for both human and animal (fish) use, and because there is little information to study the effects in veterinary use.

“To date, there are no published reports of human toxicity due to ingestion, injection, or topical application of a current drug formulation after its expiration date.” . It is likely there are also no reports in fish or birds either.  

Drug Expiration Dates are Driven by Profit Not Safety. Opinion or Truth?

The FDA requires drug manufacturers to put expiration dates on drug bottles based on when the manufacturer believes the drug degrades to -10% efficacy (90% effective). That sounds simple enough, but that is where the problem and the truth about drug expiration dates comes out.

The FDA does not require any ongoing testing from pharmaceutical companies to definitively prove how long a drug is effective, or how long it takes for prescription (and non-prescription) medication to actually reach -10% efficacy. This is a huge problem for you and a big boon for pharmaceutical companies who want quick medication turn-over and sales to remain high.

  • No required, ongoing testing means that the 90% effective expiration date is just a “new-to-market” guess made by pharmaceutical manufacturers to appease the required FDA laws.

  • Pharmaceutical companies are “for profit”, huge profits, and it is in their best interest to restrict expiration dates to as short a period of time as possible.

  • The shorter the expiration dates are, the more commercial pharmacies, doctors, and veterinarians have to turn over their stock of medications.

  • The manufacturing of drugs is based on previous years sales and not on forecasting use or need. This formula can only be achieved if the manufacturing company knows when a previous drug run will expire and (by law) needs to be replaced.

“It is estimated that up to $760 Billion dollars a year of unused prescription drugs and medical supplies are discarded each year because of expiration”

The FDA is well aware that their current mandated drug expiration dates lead to a huge waste of money for consumers, in fact the U.S. Federal government has a program called “The Shelf-life Extension Program” which helps the Armed Forces control the cost of drug turn over by extending the life of medications located in their stockpiles by and average 278 months! That is an extra 23 years the government allows for some expired medication use, at the same time limiting the expiration on consumer use to and average 2-3 years. Ridiculous. 

To be clear, the average shelf life extension as tested in the SELP program for antibiotics is 48 months (mean average). Some Antibiotics, like Cephalexin (Fish Flex) mean extension is 74 months past expiration, while Amoxicillin (as tested) is 23 months. So mileage varies and any decision to use antibiotics past expiration is a personal decision, but with proper storage confidence in use should be high.

You can check the SLEP (** Shelf-life Extension Programs” findings here: See the stability profiles of expired drugs here , or read the FDA’s Expiration Dating Extension information for use in “Public Health Emergencies” here.

“In 2016, the DoD (Department of Defense) reported that the program had helped save the department $2.1 billion on replacing stockpiled medications.” Wikipedia

So where is our savings program? Why can’t we stockpile fish antibiotics for emergency situations that would require fast actions to save our fish?

Do your research and understand the truth behind drug expiration dates, it will save you some money in the end.


^ Tetracycline and some lots of Doxycycline, especially when held in suspension (in liquid) is unstable and should never be used beyond its expiration date. 

** The SLEP findings are based on medications stored as described on the label. To extend medications keep them in a cool, dry location (in other words, leave them in their bottle, put the bottle in a zip lock bag to keep them dry, and store them in a cabinet or the refrigerator. Simple.) 

*All information given on this site about Fish Antibiotic use and Expiration Dates is specifically referencing antibiotic use in fish or birds. If information about an antibiotic is given, even if referencing information found in publicly published articles or resources referencing antibiotic use in humans is meant to be educational, not a diagnosis or opinion by a medical professional. Fish Antibiotics and bird antibiotics are labeled for fish and bird use, not for human use.