My medicine has just expired, can I still take it?
No you may not. If your medicine has reached its expiry date, please DO NOT take it. Also do not dispose of it in the trash, please take it to your nearest pharmacy.
The expiry date on a medicine is the manufacturer’s guarantee of quality up to a certain time period. Like food, medicines also “go bad”, that is, they degrade. It is therefore not safe to use a medicine after it has expired. In some cases, the degrading can lead to the formation of toxic substances, so it is always important to take note of the expiry date. In some cases, though there are no harmful substances formed, the levels of the active component of the medicine will have been reduced to an extent that the medicine no longer works. By taking an expired medicine, you can possibly delay much-needed treatment, resulting in your condition getting worse.
The manufacturers of medicines take time to study their products and prove the time over which the medicine will remain useful. This information is what they base the expiry date on.
I bought a medicine from a pharmacy, but I no longer need this medicine, can I take it back?
You need to clarify with the pharmacy before purchasing any medicine. You cannot purchase the medicine and then take it back to the pharmacy as the pharmacy will no longer take it back.
Medicines are special products that require special storage conditions. Whenever a pharmacist sells a medicine to any member of the public, he or she must be sure that the medicine was stored properly. Once a medicine leaves the pharmacy, the pharmacist can no longer guarantee how and under what conditions the medicine was stored. So, for the safety of all patients, pharmacies do not take medicine back as they cannot and must not resell such medicines. You can however take the medicine back to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
Whenever you buy medicines, be sure to take time to explain your problem to the pharmacist. The pharmacist will be more than happy to spend time answering your questions, whether they relate to a medicine prescribed by your doctor, or one given over-the-counter or initiated by the pharmacist. It is also important to discuss your treatment with your doctor and get to understand what you are supposed to buy and why it has been prescribed.
The pharmacist offered me a generic medicine, is it as effective as a brand medicine?
Yes, generic medicines are just as effective as the brand. Generic medicines in Zimbabwe undergo strict registration requirements to see if they are just as effective as the Brand. However, if your doctor does stipulate that you require the Brand medication, then he must stipulate this on the prescription.
A generic medicine contains the same active component as a branded medicine; it is however made by a different company. When restaurants make chicken curry, they have to put chicken and curry otherwise it will not be chicken curry. However, they can source their chickens and curry powder from different places, and a bit more salt and pepper or other ingredients that other restaurants will not. In a similar way, generic companies will make the same medicine with the same active ingredient, but it may differ slightly to the branded product in other inactive ingredients.
In Zimbabwe, there is an agency called the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) that looks at the safety and quality of medicines. They assess whether or not these products are the same or not. Only when they are satisfied that the medicines can do the same job will they allow the medicine to be marketed in the country. A generic medicine that has been registered by the Medicines Control of Authority of Zimbabwe is as effective as a branded medicine.
There are a number of factors that may affect the way a medicine works, such as the slight variations in the minor ingredients of the generic and brand medicines, the genetic variations among people toward the way they handle medicines or the different ways our bodies respond to medicines, it is possible that one person can respond to a branded medicine differently to the way they respond to a generic medicine. It is therefore important for you to give feedback to your healthcare provider on any lack of effect, any reactions or changes associated with a change due to a change in the medicine manufacturer, whether from a brand to a generic, or generic to a brand.