Pharmacy/sulfur

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Question
I have a topical acne medication, De La Cruz Sulfur Ointment 10%, that is 6 months past the exp. date on the jar. I've used other products, like benzoyl peroxide, that were still good literally years after the exp. date. Would it be the same with this product, or does sulfur lose its effectiveness?  Thanks

Answer
Hi Lee,
Obviously my professional 'on-record' response would be that medications should never be used beyond their date of expiration.  Realistically, a tube of sulfur cream/oint just 6 months past its expiration is probably ok to use.  Pharmaceutical companies test the decomposition of their products extensively.  They define a product's shelf-life as the time it takes for the active ingredient to decompose (or drop in concentration) by 10%.  So, theoretically at the time of its expiration, 90% of active drug should be present.  Sounds pretty good, right?!  But the problem is no firm studies have been done beyond this point.  There's no way of knowing how quickly it degrades after this time.  Furthermore, a pharmaceutical product is made up of much more than just its active component, and all these 'excipients' play an important role in how the ointment behaves.  How quickly these degrade is not known either.  You usually know something's wrong when you open a jar and notice an unusual odour (one which had not been there previously) or colour, or oil and water components begin to separate, etc.  I don't believe that sulfur creams/oint degrade to anything harmful, so if anything, you may not get the same efficacy it once had.  

So, Lee, in all likelihood, the ointment, being 6 months past its date of expiration, is "probably" safe and effective.  However, it would be worth your while purchasing a new jar.  I'm not sure what size jar you have, but these products can usually be purchased for less than $10.  Why risk it?

I hope this helps.

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Gisella Campanelli

Expertise

I am able to answer questions relating to pharmaceuticals, therapeutic regimes and primary health care. This includes offering advice on drug indications, dosages, and disease state management. I can also identify side effects, drug interactions and contra-indications, and offer recommendations on ways to mitigate these. I can diagnose minor illnesses and suggest appropriate over-the-counter remedies and/or preventive healthcare tips. I can recognize cardinal symptoms which would otherwise require referral to a medical practitioner.

Experience

I am a registered pharmacist in Australia, and I have practiced in a hospital pharmacy for over thirteen years. My clinical specializations lie within the areas of psychiatry and general medicine (including gastroenterology, respiratory, endocrinology, neurology, infectious diseases, gerontology, dermatology). I self-managed the training program for pharmacy interns in preparation for their final registration exams, and I have worked for the Pharmacy Board of Australia as an examiner and exam writer.

Education/Credentials
I hold a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the Victorian College of Pharmacy, Monash University, and I am board-registered to practice within Australia. I also hold a Master's degree in an unrelated field (art conservation).

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