Why Is CVS Selling Year-Old Expired Eye Ointment?

Raghu wants to know why CVS sold her a bottle of Tears Naturale PM that expired last year. We’re all for pushing expiration dates, but not with year-old preservative-free medicine that is meant to stay in your eye overnight.

Raghu writes:

I just came home and checked the expiration date on the Tears Naturale PM, Lubricant eye ointment.

To my surprise, it expired on May 2007 . Well, today is May 16, 2008..

WTF, this stuff goes into the EYES the whole night…

We wouldn’t worry. Our father used to give us expired medicine all the time. Six of our seven doctors now say we’re just fine!

CVS – Sold me an eye ointment one year after expiration.. [Sunday Afternoon Projects]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Phexerian says:

    It’s somewhat ok for stuff like tylenol, where you ingest it, and the expiration date basically means it has lost 10% of its activity. But for something like this that goes in your eye? Good possibility it isn’t safe. If it was made in a good sterile environment, it may be ok, but I wouldn’t bet my eyes on that. Slack employees who don’t look at the dates of stuff in that store.

    CVS sucks. Period. (Crappy Value Service)

    -3rd Year PharmD/MBA Candidate

  2. timmus says:

    Based on that Optima typeface in the ointment packaging, I’ll wager that the ointment was actually made in the 1980s and reboxed.

  3. karmaghost says:

    I’m not making excuses for CVS, but stores of all kinds very often let a product or two slip past their expiration dates and stay on store shelves. Sometimes (this doesn’t seem to be the case here with CVS) a grocery store will stock expired products because an outside vendor typically deals with a product, so store employees aren’t used to checking themselves. That doesn’t mean it should be allowed to happen, but it does, and probably more frequently than you think.

  4. anonymouse23 says:

    Coming from a loyal CVS employee for about 4 years (and a customer for much longer), it’s not slack employees, it’s a slack company who hasnt pushed checking outdates until only recently.

    But there’s a reason for printing it on the package exterior, it’s there for you to look at. CVS “sold” you that, but realize that YOU bought it. Stop bitching and go get a refund and a replacement especially for packaging that looks that old.

  5. kathyl says:

    @Phexerian: Extremely informative! Nice to know the real scoop on those expiration dates from someone studying the field.

  6. u1itn0w2day says:

    Did you ever watch someone stock shelves in a big corporate retail store:they just push the remnants to the back.That same package was probably pushed to the rear or had new stock placed in front of it many times over the last year.

    Apparently no one ever explained to the under paid and over worked employee the importance of rotating stock/expired merchandise.Nor did the under paid over worked management bother to check.

    CVS seems to have one of those brainwashed zombie workforces.The only thing I notice that they are one of the few retailers ready the first day of an ad.And their discount card sucks;get better prices without it elsewhere.

  7. fjordtjie says:

    did you try to return it? because i’m pretty sure they’d take it back if you asked.

    as for expiration dates, i used to work at a grocery store and found expired things all of the time, but managers generally said they’d deal with it, and i’d come back next week with it still there. i worked in the ‘cafe’ of the store, so i sometimes worked in the kitchen with the bags of soda syrup for the dispensers on the other side. one day shortly after i started there, i noticed the lemonade was marked to have expired a year before. i told my manager, she said she’d look into it, and it never changed…until a customer complained that it tasted awful. THEN i was demanded to change it.

    so in defense of some (a few) underpaid employees who do give a crap about safety, i pointed it out any time i found expired merchandise, and management ignored me every time.

  8. Dobernala says:

    @fjordtjie: People need to be fined and, perhaps in more extreme cases, arrested for this.

  9. ConRoo says:

    As a smart consumer, you should look at expiration dates. They are on the outside of the packaging for a reason. Who knows how or this was on the shelf, yet. But, I’m sure the store would have replaced it.

  10. Britt says:

    I always check expiration dates when buying medicines. I know I shouldn’t have to, but sometimes one or two get looked over, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. I check expiration dates on the bread I buy, so why not everything else?

  11. AntonioLamia says:

    Why Is CVS Selling Year-Old Expired Eye Ointment?

    Because expired tears saves unborn fetuses

  12. FLConsumer says:

    Just one gripe on the expiration dates — would it really be that difficult for the companies to make them clearer/easier to see? So often they’re stamped into the box with what appears to be a 50+ year old stamping machine and invariably you can’t read it… or the product lacks a date at all. Even a manufactured on date would be helpful.

  13. Hamm Beerger says:

    While I agree that CVS shouldn’t be selling expired eye-drops, perhaps Raghu shouldn’t be buying expired eye-drops.

  14. StellaSquash says:

    For three days in a row my grocery store insisted on selling expired yogurt. I have no idea about yogurt and it’s life span but if the date has come and gone, shouldn’t it be off the store shelf??

    I ALWAYS check dates. ALWAYS!!! That way I’m not at home ready to blind myself with expired eye products.

  15. @StellaSquash: My grocery store, about 3 days before the expiration date, places a $.50-$1.50 off sticker on perishables to move them off the shelf… and by god, I take the bait every time. You can catch 4 packs of those yogurt smoothies for $1.25. I’ve gone a couple days past a due date, maybe up to 5 with no consequences. I also buy huge steaks discounted $3.00-$5.00 PER STEAK because it “expires” tomorrow… but the meat they sell a day before expiration is still a nice deep red, AND 100x better than WalMart’s shitty meat. Nothin like buying all your BBQ meat for under $10.

  16. donkeyjote says:

    @StellaSquash: Yogurt is expired milk and bacteria. What’s it gonna do when it expires? Have more bacteria in it? You’re really getting twice your money’s worth!!!

  17. donkeyjote says:

    @verucalise: You do know that “nice deep red” is a factory injected dye to entice you into buying it, right?

  18. coan_net says:

    Sometimes things expire at stores – and for an item like this eye ointment, I’m guessing it is not an item that is used often. Anyway, it can be easy to overlook.

    Best thing to do is bring it back to the store and let them know they have expired things…. which will hopefully & most likely get them to go through their stock and make sure they don’t sell any other expired items.

    I know when I use to work retail, that would happen on occasion that someone would bring in something that was expired – and the next day the manager made us go through everything on the shelves to see if there was anything else that was expired.

    Anyway, most likely just an oversight – not “policy” or anything like that. Just PLEASE make sure you take it back so hopefully expired stock will not be sold to others.

  19. msbask says:

    WARNING: I’m about to blame the consumer ahead.

    How on earth did this numnut buy these expired eye drops? It’s clearly stated on the FRONT of the package IN TWO PLACES that these expired. It’s up to YOU to check before you buy. I’ve always assumed that that’s why the date is there.

  20. fredmertz says:

    Pointing out these one-off mistakes made by employees earnings $8 an hour has officially become as cool as correcting someone’s spelling in a message board post.

    Gotta run — I hear a Best Buy employee just put a sale sticker on an item that is HIGHER than the original price. Can’t miss that!

  21. I worked in a grocery store, and the dairy department infact. It is almost impossible to keep expired items off the shelves. With dairy it is a bit easier because diary expires quickly, so you know what items to look for. Grocery items are a lot harder. No grocery clerk, or CVS clerk for that matter will check every item in the store. They don’t have that much time. What most clerks check a hand full of items in the back of the shelves, and some in the front. If no expired items are found then it is assumed that there are no expired items of that type. If an expired item is found then more of those items will be looked at. The best thing a clerk can do it rotate the old items to the front when they are stocking new items. This is a lot of extra work, and doesn’t gaurentee that old items wont get swapped to the back by customers. Me and my co-workers used to always find the most expired items. I found some two year old butter once. Eight year old soup once too.

  22. catnapped says:

    @donkeyjote: Yogurt does get moldy after awhile, but it usually takes at least 2-4 weeks after the expiration date (sometimes longer).

  23. radio1 says:

    I calling a mulligan.

    Why is this news? A person buys an expired product and it is front page news on Consumerist??

    Jeezum Crow.

    Everyone here knows you should check the expiry dates on all medicines. But we don’t, mostly we assume the stock is rotated and removed properly.

    But what kind of dipshit, buys expired medicine, or in this case techinally a ‘prepatory agent’ and complains about it. Most normal people would, “Geez, I’m an idiot- I did not notice the date.” Then you would tromp back to the store and exchange it.

    I’m pretty certain, I could walk across my street, enter Walgreens, go into the eye drop aisle and find something that’s expired. If I looked hard enough.

    I really suggest that editor screening submissions here should have more common sense.

  24. PinkBox says:

    Same thing happened to me! I bought lubricant eye drops because of my lasik surgery, then found out a good month after I’d been using them that they were expired.

    Yes, I should have checked the date, but it wasn’t something I thought of.

  25. redhelix says:

    Yeah, I used to do date-coding for a supermarket. That CVS is either understaffed or incompetent – eye ointments are supposed to be checked very frequently for stuff that’s out of code.

  26. ColoradoShark says:

    @donkeyjote: Maybe once upon a time it was dye. Now the nice deep red is due to it being packaged with carbon monoxide in the package. Still not right, but let’s get the way the meat is adulterated right!

  27. shor0814 says:

    Better yet, how about expiration dates that aren’t in some coded format? Or hidden somewhere on the package that can’t be seen easily? Clearly labeled products in easy to read places would be great!

  28. shor0814 says:

    @coan_net: This stuff is used constantly after LASIK surgery, it is sold more often than you might think.

  29. AcidReign says:

        I wouldn’t have thought eye drops would have an expiration date, either. That is, until I tried to “get the red out” with a bottle that had probably been sitting in the medicine cabinet for a decade!

        It’s definitely not a mistake you’ll make twice. I had to fill a mixing bowl with water, dunk my head in, and wash my eyes out, to stop the burnies and be able to see again.

  30. mmstk101 says:

    i used to wear contact lenses on the odd occasion. until one day i opened the lens container, and there was BLACK MOLD in the cleaning fluid. i almost barfed.

    and, yes, the cleaning solution had expired.

    glasses FTW!

  31. roger2001 says:

    Just as a point of reference. There is a procedure in place for all CVS stores to make sure there are no outdates like that. Each department is to be checked every 3 months. Departments like Grocery and Tobbacco more often. CVS stores that have expiration dates that far gone were not following procedure.

  32. donkeyjote says:

    @radio1: It’s a blog. EVERYTHING is front page news, as a matter of “thats how blogs work”

    @ColoradoShark: Opps. My bad. And after all the Consumerist posts on it too :(

  33. datruesurfer says:

    Laziness. When I worked there they wouldn’t do it unless the word came down from corporate that they had to or else.

  34. misterfuss says:

    Catch 22? Did the OP not notice the expiration date because he needed the eyedrops to see?

  35. sodden says:

    I wouldn’t trust any pharmacy. I was once given eye ointment with written instructions to rub it into my eyes gently. It was supposed to have been eye DROPS for after some LASIK eye surgery. If I’d followed the directions, I’d have ripped my cornea off my eyeballs.

    The pharmacist misread the prescription, saw it was for a drug that often came as an ointment, and just assumed. He didn’t notice the prescription said eye drops, nor did he call the doctor and verify anything.

    I took it right back to the pharmacy, and had to stand there and argue with the fooking pharmacist for 15 minutes, because of HIS mistake, and he tried to charge me for a second prescription. He did actually charge my insurance company, but I wouldn’t let him charge me another co-payment.

    Thinking on it now, I should have reported him to the store manager as well as called the insurance company.

  36. Expiration dates are not usually an absolute drop dead date (like previously stated about yogurt). Who here hasn’t eaten a bit of day old bread? Ever use a battery past the “expiration” date? Most expiration dates are a best by date with a “slow” drop off in the quality / performance of the product. Expired bread, until the mold starts growing, makes great grilled cheese sandwiches. Those expired AA batteries may not yield as many photos as fresh batteries, but if there is juice the battery will work.

    I am seeing a trend with spanking new products (like candy with a current marketing/movie label) having a quick “expiration” date. Might just be a way to force vendors to buy (rotate and mark down) more products.

  37. terri88 says:

    did anyone realize that she was charged .59 more than the price on the box,box said 11.99 receipt said 12.59 cvs made HER pay for being silly(lol)

  38. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    after a grocery store experience a while back i stopped thinking that employees ever view their place of employment from the point of view of a consumer in terms of outdated or damaged products.

    i was buying some cans of chicken broth and two of the cans on the shelf were distended, so much that their tops were rounded domes.
    i took them to the casher when i was ready to check out and said ‘these need to be pulled off the shelves, they aren’t safe’ before i started to unload my basket.
    the cashier started to pass the first can over the scanner.
    when i repeated that i didn’t want to BUY those, that they were unsafe and she needed to bring them to the manager’s attention she said ‘so if you didn’t want to buy them, why did you bring them up here?’
    fortunately the manager was just a few feet away and took an interest. he immediately recognized that they were unsafe. i don’t think the cashier ever got it. i just hope she never dies of botulism

  39. Brunette Bookworm says:

    I usually check dates on things i buy but in a couple cases where I didn’t, I’ve just returned them to the store and got my money back. No big deal…

    If you think about how many products are in a store there are bound to be items still on the shelf past their expiration date. Just check them and if you see something that’s out of date, let the store know. They are human and do miss things on occasion. If it was a mistake and not laziness, I’m sure they would take it off the shelf if you tell them about it.

  40. e.varden says:

    @donkeyjote: @donkeyjote:

    Re: red dye.

    If you are going to buy “supermarket” beef, you get dyes and crap. That’s a given.

    The point is “aged” beef is way more tasty than “fresh” for all sorts of biochemical reasons.

    I always wait for “past expiration date” beef and get a more tender, tasty slab of cow at a cheaper price.

    – Go ask a for-real butcher about “aging”. You will be amazed that you can “age” your supermarket fresh stuff, to proper tastiness, no extra charge ( or with “old”, a gift to you!)

  41. ablestmage says:

    Seems like it would be just as much your fault for not checking the expiration date, as it is for the employees. You’re automatically telling us that you didn’t bother to check it, and that’s really not smart. Why do we get the alarmist reaction first but none of the follow-up? There’s too many unanswered questions for this to be good journalism.

  42. Pinget says:

    The CVS near me is bad about expiration dates. I check everything I buy there. If something has expired, they put that item in front, trying to sell it. Bad, bad CVS.

  43. SuzieBee20 says:

    I’m amused I found this post as I searched for “expired” to see what sould be done about situations like this because I’m fed up with my CVS. I’ve taken products up to the counter that I’ve come across that were expired at least 5 times. The most recent was stomach medicine I almost bought for my daughter. There were 6 boxes that had expired 3 months prior! I once bought a bottle of vitamins that I forgot to check and they were over a year old!! Is there some kind of regulating agency that this can be reported to? At first I thought they’re people too, they miss things. But for stuff to sit there for months after it expires? Is it too much to check the date when you stock new product?

    We also almost bought my 2 year old chocolate milk from Albertsons Grocery store and it was a MONTH OLD! MILK!!! There were at least 10 of them because I kept pulling them out looking for a fresh one. I’m guessing maybe they were shipped to the store out of date by error. I told an employee and he said thanks but I don’t think he could have cared less. Really people…

  44. PinUp says:

    OK, I know this is an old thread, but I am SO FED UP with CVS! I have been waiting for over a week for them to refill a simple little prescription & they can’t seem to figure out how to get the paperwork faxed to the doc’s office for the insurance override.

    It’s been my experience that the actual pharmacists are fine, but the techs can’t figure anything out; this one said they were waiting for a response from the doctor, but was strangely unable to locate the paperwork that had supposedly been faxed twice.

    Perhaps they haven’t gotten a response because it was never faxed at all? Walgreen’s, here I come!

  45. usa_gatekeeper says:

    Noted some of the comments about yogurt … Probiotic cultures in yogurt, which help maintain a healthy intestinal tract by heading off unwanted pathogens, dwindle as you get closer to (and go beyond) the expiration date. Sure, the yogurt may still be fine to eat, but you do lose some of the benefit.