The use of expired medical materials such as drugs, fluids, or sutures for survival procedures in animals is not acceptable veterinary practice and does not constitute adequate veterinary care[1]. Researchers must either dispose of all such materials or segregate them in an appropriately labeled, physically separate location from non-expired medical materials. For acute terminal procedures, expired medical materials may be used if their use does not adversely affect the animal's well-being or compromise the validity of the scientific study. However, drugs used for anesthesia, analgesia, and euthanasia must not be used beyond their expiration date under any circumstances.

What does this mean?

For Survival Procedures

All drugs and medical materials (e.g., saline bags, suture materials, antibiotics) intended to be used in survival procedures must be disposed of after the expiration date.

Example: Items stamped "12/10" may be used through December 31, 2010, and are outdated on January 1, 2011. Dispose of the outdated items appropriately.

Researchers are responsible for establishing and implementing procedures to ensure that drugs and medical materials are within the expiration date; this includes labeling all drug preparations with the date of preparation and the earliest expiration date of the component drugs. All expired supplies must be labeled "Expired – Do Not Use" and stored separately from non-expired materials if immediate disposal is not possible.

For Non-Survival Procedures

With the exception of emergency, anesthetic, analgesic, or euthanasia drugs, expired medical materials may be used in terminal procedures, including non-survival surgeries, provided:

  • Materials are marked as "Expired – Use ONLY in TERMINAL Procedures."
  • Materials are stored in a different location (cabinet, drawer, etc.) than materials used for survival procedures.
  • The use of expired medical materials does not adversely affect the animal’s well-being or compromise the validity of the scientific study.
  • Proper anesthesia, analgesia, and euthanasia are employed for all such procedures.

Identification and Removal of Expired Medical Materials

The ARC recommends that each laboratory establish a procedure to facilitate the identification and removal of expired drugs and other medical materials used for research involving animals. This may take the form of a drug log, signed by a member of the laboratory each month, indicating that they have checked for and discarded, or set aside for disposal, any expired drugs or other medical materials from their laboratory. The ARC reserves the right to make this recommendation a requirement if expired drugs or other medical materials are repeatedly identified in a particular laboratory.

[1] See OLAW FAQ, "May investigators use expired pharmaceuticals, biologics, and supplies in animals?"

Approved 6/12/00; Revised 7/28/03, 9/12/2011, 3/27/2023