My Beta Reader Told Me Something You Should Know

One of my "beta readers" for the Lesson One: Revolution! sequel (Extra Credit: Loyalty!) brought to my attention something that I should know to improve the story. (Warning: Very minor spoiler ahead.) Unlike an issue of word choice or punctuation (which were also detected), this is something about real life that would be helpful to know for many people, writers and non-writers alike. In the sequel, Dan sustains a serious injury and wants something to help deal with the pain. He has access to some first aid supplies that were in storage, and he opts to take some ibuprofen rather than a much stronger prescription drug because the latter is past its expiration date. That was written from my consumer-level "understanding" of medicine, and it turns out to not be the right choice. I'll fix the story, but read on to see what the right choice would be, and how what I learned from my beta reader could be helpful to you, and to your bank account.

Photo credit: cohdra from

It turns out that "drug expiration" is primarily about potency, not safety. If you do some online searches, you'll find numerous references to studies that looked specifically at whether medicines (unopened and stored properly) were safe and effective after their expiration dates. With some exceptions, the general finding was that they were still effective within the acceptable range that they needed to be when originally sold. That's not to say that all medicine is safe to take after its expiration, and I certainly don't want anyone to think that this blog post is an authoritative medical reference. However, when you're in an emergency situation, or just want to reduce your medical expenses, or maybe you're a writer without a medical background writing about medicine, it might be worth your time to find out whether your expired medicine is safe and reasonably effective to take regardless of the expiration date.

There are exceptions to the potency versus safety aspect of expiration dates. Liquid antibiotics, insulin, and things like eye drops that need to remain sterile are among those exceptions. It's not worth the risk to just ignore expiration dates entirely. However, for poor ol' Dan and his need for pain relief, the expired hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination would be the better choice than the milder ibuprofen. If you read the book when it is published, remember this blog post when you reach that part of the story!

By the way, if you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll have noticed that I skipped last week's posting. What is that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men? Anyway, my original plan for my blog post last week was to delay it a couple days so that I could share the results of an experiment in advertising. That experiment ended up being such a dud, however, that I wasn't sure whether I wanted to share the non-results or just pick a different topic. Rather than making a late posting to this blog, I instead managed to cause a very disruptive technical problem that I'm still working to resolve (thus the last-hour posting of this week's entry). Hopefully things will settle down enough technically that I can get back to a proper posting schedule.

About the Author
Stuart J. Whitmore is an author of fiction and nonfiction, as well as a photographer, technology developer, and more. If you enjoy reading his blog posts, you might also enjoy reading his books. Take a look at the books by Stuart J. Whitmore today, and download your copy of one that looks interesting to you!