The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.

But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

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  • Thank you for this article. What a potential area for cost-savings and non-partisan agreement. Don’t we all claim to hate waste? Understand that drug companies have less incentive…how do other countries handle?

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