Doha, Qatar: When temperatures rise in places where medicines are stored, the expiration and potency of stored medicines will be affected by exposure to high heat. Each medicine has an optimal storage temperature, thus if not stored properly, it may lose its potency and alter into a toxic substance.
In this interview, Dr. Ahmed Mohamed Ali Yusuf, Pharmacy Supervisor at West Bay Health Center, addresses the most ideal ways of storing medicines especially in the hot summer.
What is the maximum room temperature allowed for storing medicines?
Pharmaceutical manufacturers write on the packets the temperature required to keep and store medicines. Some medicines require storage at a temperature between (2-8°C), while many medicines can be stored at a temperature not more than 25° C and some at a temperature not more than 30°C.
What happens to medicines stored at temperature A or humidity above required?
Medicines may change by exposure to extreme temperature and high humidity, making them less effective before the expiry dates indicated on their packaging. Capsules, powders, creams, ointments, tablets, injectors and many kinds of pharmaceutical compounds may become degraded.
Can you give examples of medicines that are more sensitive to high temperature?
These include, but not limited to, the following:
Antidepressants: tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline and antihistamine used for treating allergies such as Benadryl.
Nitroglycerin: a drug used to widen the heart arteries. This drug should be kept away from sunlight; thus it is packed in an amber-colored bottle to decrease the amount of light that can reach it.
Inhaled Medications: such as inhalers used for treating asthmatic bronchitis or shortness of breath.
Insulin and other injections: insulin should be kept in the refrigerator between 2 and 8°C to maintain its potency until the expiration date written on its package. It should never be frozen. After starting using an insulin bottle or pens, they should be kept at room temperature (15-25 °C) because insulin rapidly degrades by heat.
Liquid antibiotics and other syrups: patients may need to cool any liquid antibiotics such as the antibiotic syrup after reconstituting it with sterile water, otherwise these medicines will lose their potent. Many liquid solutions require storage at a room temperature (15 - to 25 °C).
Blood Glucose or Pregnancy Test strips: heat and humidity can cause false readings of medical test strips. These false readings have a negative impact on the patient. Blood glucose test strips should be stored at certain temperatures as stated on the packaging. Pregnancy tests and other types of medical test strips such as cholesterol and urine acid should also be stores in a dry place as recommended by the manufacturer, because false reading may result if exposed to high temperatures.
How are pills or tablets protected against heat and humidity?
Some pharmacies use heat-insulating bags, ice bags or small containers that are easy to transport and used to store medicines that are sensitive to heat and humidity.
Where not to store medicines?
Avoid keeping medicines in bathrooms or in first aid boxes in bathrooms.
Bathrooms are not a suitable place to store medicines due to high temperature and humidity. The best option is to have a cabinet out of reach of children, sunlight and any heat source.
How to protect medicines while traveling especially in summer?
These are some tips to keep your medications potent while traveling: keep your medicines in the car away from sunlight, pack the medicines that need to stay cool in a small chiller with an ice and thermal pack, and bring only enough amount of medicines to last your entire travel, but do not take the whole medications with you.
Pack medicines that need cooling in a small chiller and place it on the top of your handbag for easy intake and examining, as well as having a thermometer to help you check and monitor the medicine’s temperature.
What happens if medicines are mistakenly put in the fridge or left in a car where temperature is higher than the required for storage?
In this case, check or examine the occurrence some signs that indicate the medicine has become unusable and has lost its therapeutic effect:
If the pill or capsule is cracked
If there is a change in color or smell
If the drug has become smoother or thicker in its appearance compared to its normal.
If there is a change in the medicine liquidity or viscosity compared to its normal.
If you think your medicine has been exposed to higher temperatures than required, you can contact the medication consultation center or the pharmacist who dispensed the medication to you.