Many survivalists have a topical antibiotic like Neosporin in their med kits to prevent cuts, scrapes and burns from becoming infected. Occasionally, these ointments may need to be replaced, but probably not nearly as often as you might think.
While Neosporin’s website discourages using topical antibiotics beyond their expiration date, they don’t really explain why. The FDA provides a much better explanation of what expiration dates truly represent.
In 1979, the FDA required manufacturers to place an expiration date on their products to guarantee full safety and potency of the medication.
Thus, the expiration date signifies the retention of the purity, quality, and strength of the topical ointment or any other medication when stored properly.
Antibiotic ointments don’t just spontaneously go bad beyond the date of expiration. All medicines gradually degrade as they mature. Even with that degradation, however, Neosporin doesn’t become harmful. So there’s really no need to throw it out except in a few instances.
Off the shelf, I’ve seen Neosporin with an expiration date anywhere from one to three years beyond the date of purchase. Once you’ve reached that date, however, there’s no need to toss it. Worst-case scenario, it simply becomes less effective.
As a matter of fact, one PubMed study that tested over a hundred different medicines revealed that 90% of them were still perfectly safe 15 years after their expiration dates.