Survey Finds Many Retailers Selling Expired Medications

Attorney General Spitzer said today that a survey by his office found that dozens of retail stores across the state were selling expired over-the-counter medications.

"Drugs may lose their potency and effectiveness over time," Spitzer said. "It is important for retailers to check their stock periodically and remove outdated products. In addition, consumers should check expiration dates and make sure they are buying the safest and most effective medications."

Spitzer's office conducted a survey of retail stores during late summer and found numerous violations of a state law that requires outdated products be removed from store display shelves.

Investigators checked a variety of stores for common products including: aspirin, allergy medicines, antibiotic ointments, cough and cold medicine, nasal decongestant sprays and athlete's foot powders.

Expired medications were found most frequently in convenience stores, discount stores and small groceries, but were also found in supermarkets and pharmacies.

More than 100 stores were checked by Spitzer's investigators and approximately a third were found to be offering for sale at least one expired medication.

Spitzer noted that there was probably no specific danger associated with many of the outdated products that were being sold. In most cases, old medications simply lose efficacy. At the same time, however, he said that it was clearly in consumers' best interest to purchase fresh medications.

Drug manufacturers agree that the potency and effectiveness of over-the-counter drugs cannot be guaranteed beyond their expiration dates.

Arthur Levin, Executive Director of the New York City-based Center for Medical Consumers, said: "Even if the danger from outdated over-the-counter medications is not grave, consumers should be assured that they are buying products that maximize the potential for relief of symptoms. And retailers should be held accountable for adherence to state laws enacted for that purpose."

Stores that were found to be selling expired drugs were given the opportunity to resolve the matter out of court by signing an assurance of discontinuance and paying a $500 fine for each brand of expired medication found to be more than one month out of date.

The Attorney General's office has reached agreements with 29 of 33 stores where violations were found. These stores have removed expired medications and promised to take steps to prevent the sale of expired products in the future.

The Attorney General said stores that refuse to take steps to improve compliance with the law may face court actions.

New York State General Business Law § 820 states that over-the-counter medications may not be sold after the date "marked upon the label as indicative of the date beyond which the contents cannot be expected beyond reasonable doubt to be safe and effective."

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