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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!The storage conditions should be maintained throughout the distribution channel i.e. right from the time of leaving the manufacturing unit to consumption of the product.

The most common problem is encountered with temperature changes. "Controlled room temperature" is defined by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) as, "A temperature maintained thermostatically that encompasses the usual and customary working environment of 20 to 25 C (68 - 77 F) that allows for brief deviations between 15 - 30 C (59 - 86 F) that are experienced in pharmacies, hospitals, and warehouses."

What can go wrong?

Here are a few examples

  1. Unopened vials of insulin, disposable dosing devices and unopened insulin pens must be stored in the refrigerator. Insulin must not be frozen. Opened vials of insulin should be stored in the refrigerator but may also be stored at room temperature, in a cool place that is away from heat and direct sunlight. A damaged dose of insulin can be life-threatening for diabetics. Insulin can lose its effectiveness if frozen. The same goes for any so-called suspended medication that has to be shaken before use.
  2. In general, antibiotics require storage in a refrigerator or freezer. All antibiotics should be protected from direct sunlight. E.g. Rifampicin and amphotericin B are very sensitive to light and should be stored in the dark. Some decayed antibiotics cause stomach or kidney damage.
  3. Ointments and creams may melt if the temperature is too high. E.g. Hydrocortisone cream can separate and become useless in the heat.
  4. Vaccines usually need to be stored under refrigeration and may become ineffective if not done so.
  5. Oral suspensions must be stored at specified temperatures and used up within a certain period. E.g. instructions on an oral suspension read: The oral suspension may be stored at room temperature for 10 days from the day of mixing, or in the refrigerator for 17 days from the day of mixing.
  6. Protein based medicines like thyroid, and birth control pills are susceptible to temperature changes. Protein denatures with changes in temperature.



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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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