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Can My Medication Spoil? YES, So Take Care of It As Instructed!

Saturday, August 20, 2011
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Can My Medication Spoil? YES, So Watch Out!How your medication has been stored can affect or doom its efficacy!
Why do we store icecream in the freezer, and keep eggs or chicken cool in the fridge? Most of us are extremely careful of the conditions under which we store our foodstuff because that affects their shelf life, safety, quality and taste. But, how many of us give much thought to the conditions under which we store our medications? While we are careful to check the expiry dates of drugs, many of us ignore the storage instructions on the packs of medicines.

Drugs have one or more "active" components along with additives/fillers. In order to maintain the stability of the main ingredient, and also the additives they should be stored at the recommended temperature. The usual recommendation for storage of most over-the-counter drugs is either "room temperature" or "cool and dry place". If not stored properly, chemical changes may take place which may make the drug ineffective or even produce harmful by products. The time span needed to degrade the drug is different for each medicine.

It is easy to sense changes in food due to improper storage; however, this is not the case with drugs. We usually do not sense visual and taste changes in improperly stored drugs.

Storage conditions that can affect drug stability and effectiveness

  • High temperature(heat)
  • Low temperature(Cold)
  • Relative Humidity
  • Light
  • Air



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User Comments

22 May, 2012 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Dangerous Drugs Should Not be trashed they should be Flushed!

According to The FDA, medications that are especially harmful and could potentially be fatal if taken accidentally should not be put in the dustbins/trash. Instead they should be flushed down the toilet or sink to eliminate any chance that a child or pet will find them.Drugs like morphine, methadone etc powerful pain relievers and other drugs that are widely used. Of even greater concern are the powerful narcotics delivered by patch, such as the drug fentanyl.
A complete list of the drugs recommended for flushing by FDA can be found on the agency's web site in the consumer section entitled "How to Dispose of Unused Medicines."

27 September, 2011 | Poonam | Reply

Poonam Patients who depend on home delivery of their medication from chemists need to be very careful if special storage conditions are needed for the medication. eg if you order insulin, ensure that it is delivered in ice packs because changes in temperature can lead to inactivation of the active ingredients.

26 September, 2011 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Invariably medicine strips/capsules/bottles etc are not completely used and many of us leave it in the medicine chest for later use, if need. However many of them dont get used and we forget it way beyond expiry date only to throw it.
Today a number of charitable institutions accept medicines so its best to give away those tablets/capsules for a more needy person well within the expiry date.

27 September, 2011 | Sangeetha Narayana Swamy | Reply

Sangeetha Narayana Swamy Very good and sensible suggestion viji ma'am. The kids medications, especially the generic ones, which we buy and stock, can always be given to the underprivileged or donated to the Children homes or orphanages.

26 September, 2011 | Alpana Deshmukh | Reply

Alpana Deshmukh Unfair!! Pharma companies know a desperate patient will buy meds prescribed by the doctors anyways, so their sales will continue.However if they care they should come out strongly with the storage rules and regulations to maintain potency, as they do for polio vaccines. Medicines don't come cheap and nobody reads the fine print..

27 September, 2011 | Vijayalakshmi Iyengar | Reply

Vijayalakshmi Iyengar Dear Alpana much as I would like to join you in calling `foul, Pharmacists do tell us how to store it or when to take it for maximum efficacy and safety if we ask them, besides its our responsibility to read the fine print about the same. Nevertheless since 2006 world over and 2010 in India Pharmacological or PV has been set up and is monitored by `WHO International Drug Monitoring Programme' to ensure drug safety on all fronts.
With regard to disposal of unused and expired drugs please get more information from this site

26 September, 2011 | Srilekha Sudhakar | Reply

Srilekha Sudhakar Very informative article. I hope all pharmacies, when they tell the people how to use the medication also tell them how to store it. This will be really beneficial for the patients. Also they should have a board with the do's and don'ts.

27 September, 2011 | Sangeetha Narayana Swamy | Reply

Sangeetha Narayana Swamy Dear Srilekha,

Thank you for the post. It's a very good suggestion, the pharmacists can always educate the person buying the medication about the storage details. Also they can always have a general instructions board put up in the pharmacy for handling of medicines in the pharmacy.

I have observed in some pharmacies here that the person giving the medicine is really not a qualified pharmacist. The question now is will he really be able to help senior citizens/patients on the storage of medicines?

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