This may seem something unimportant but not handling it properly may cause the medicines less effective and worst still the medicines may turn toxic. We need to accept the fact that exposure to light, humidity and extreme temperature can alter the state of the drugs thus causing loss in potency and efficacy of both the prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Sometimes although not always, from the color, texture and shape we can know whether a medicine has been altered.
Believe you will agree that for people with a chronic illness, when the medicine does not work as intended, it may turn out to be something life-threatening.
Since each drug has its unique requirements, the storage conditions for each drug will be different too. For instance, some need to be refrigerated while others are fine when keep at room temperature but needed to avoid light and moisture.
Although the manufacturers and the medical professionals have a duty to tell us how to store the medications, as patients, the responsibility rest on us to follow the information as given to store the medicines properly. In fact, the challenge for us is to find a safe storage space for the medicines without compromising the ease of using them, meaning that we can’t due to the storage issue make us easily forgotten where to retrieve them when the medicines are needed or make us easily forgotten to take them.
To properly store your medicines, the following pointers should be useful to you:
Drugs in transit – When you are travelling, it is advisable to put the medications in your carry-on luggage in view that baggage holds on airplane is not temperature controlled, added to that baggage can get lost, checked bags can sizzle and so on.
As for mail ordering drugs, you need to take into account the season involved as the interior of a mailbox can be very hot in summer while in winter it is like a freezer. Another thing to take note of is not to leave your medicines in a parked car as the temperature can become very hot or very cold due to the weather.
At home – It is recommended to store the medicines away from children’s reach, sunlight and heat sources such as avoiding placing near the stove and refrigerator. Also, bathroom is not a good place to store medications because of the potential high heat and humidity.
Temperature – As claimed by drugs manufacturers, most medicines when stored at 58 to 80 degrees are considered fine. Outside that range, the medications can start to degrade. Biologics that are used to treat arthritis and those hormone-containing drugs like thyroid and birth control pills can be easily broken down in heat. Others such as insulin can be destroyed by both freezing and overheating.
If the medicines need to be refrigerated, it must be followed to preserve its efficacy and shelf life. Generally, biologics, unopened insulin and a number of injectables need refrigeration.
Devices such as glucose meters and diagnostic testing devices too are sensitive to extreme temperature and we wouldn’t get an accurate reading if we ignore the fact that they are as sensitive as medications to heat, cold and moisture.
If you are in doubt on how to store your medicines, always check with the pharmacist or the doctor accordingly.
Tan Kok Hui
Nutrition Made Simple, Life Made Rich