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Expiration Date Follies

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The reason Arkansas is trying to rush executions is that its batch of one of the execution drugs is nearing its "expiration date."  Does something magical happen to a bottle of a drug when that precise date arrives?   Does it turn into something else at the stroke of the clock, like Cinderella's coach turning into a pumpkin?

Of course not.  Drugs have a shelf life, and the "expiration date" is the manufacturer's very, very conservative estimate of how long we can be confident, without testing, that the purity and potency of the drug has not deteriorated below acceptable limits by the passage of time alone, as long as the drug has been stored under the proper conditions.

But throwing drugs away simply because that conservative estimate date has arrived is not always required, particularly if the drug is expensive or in short supply.  See this post from 2014 and the quote from Johns Hopkins.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Defense have an entire program to avoid the waste of throwing away good drugs.  It is called, logically enough, the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP).  Here is a PowerPoint on the program.  With testing, we can be confident that drugs will remain pure and potent beyond their nominal expiration dates, sometimes far beyond.

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The problem, of course, is the optics.

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