What Is the Typical Shelf Life for a Prescription Drug?

Pharmaceuticals sold in the United States normally have an expiration date that extends from 12 to 60 months after the time of manufacture. The FDA requires that all drugs produced after 1979 have an expiration date. However, the actual shelf life of most medications can be significantly longer, reports Drugs.com.

The FDA conducted a study on military drug stockpiles and found that nearly 90 percent of more than 100 different drugs, both prescription and nonprescription, were still safe to consume even 15 years after the posted expiration date, as reported by Harvard Health. Drugs in solid formulations, such as tablets or capsules, tend to be more resistant to degradation than drugs in liquid dosage forms, notes Drugs.com.