Can — and should — prescription drugs be used after their expiration date?

A new report from ProPublica surveys recent studies on that subject. It found that pharmacies around the country routinely throw away "tons of scarce and potentially valuable prescription drugs" after their labeled expiration dates.

One study in California found that 12 of 14 compounds in "decades-old" drugs were just as potent as they were when they were originally made. Another study from 2006 of expired drugs in the FDA's stockpile found that two-thirds of the tested drugs were stable. 

While researchers emphasize that they're not suggesting people go ahead and take any expired drug they wish, they say that rethinking how expiration dates are set could cut down on health care costs and save lives.

Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan agreed.

"We ought to be fully examining this, because we could save billions of dollars by extending the life spans of these drugs," said medical ethicist Arthur Caplan.

"It's one thing to say, 'I'm going to throw away a pill I was using to control my high blood pressure that cost me 10 cents a day,'" Caplain said. "But these drugs are now costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don't we want to re-examine how long they last?" 

Click the audio player above to hear more from medical ethicist Arthur Caplan.