The Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) recently issued a warning to the public that medications should be stored correctly to ensure their effectiveness and potency. As Taiwan moves into summer, it is a timely reminder for pharmacists to check whether they are storing medications properly.
Most medications can be kept at room temperature. It is common knowledge for pharmacists that medications must be kept away from heat, light and moisture, but what does this mean exactly? According to the World Health Organization Guidelines for the Storage of Essential Medicines and Other Health Commodities, room temperature is defined as Store at 15°-25°C (59°-77°F). Cool temperature is defined as 8°-15°C (45°-59°F). Products should usually be stored at no more than 60% relative humidity and in its original packaging.
What happens to medications when they are stored outside their storage requirements? High temperature can affect the flavour or taste of oral suspensions, creams and ointments can lose consistency resulting in changes in drug release, suppositories may harden and tablets disintegrate. Moisture can promote the growth of microbes and affect stability. Humidity can dilute the test liquid on pregnancy or blood sugar strips and give false readings.
Proper storage of medications is easy when you are at home. What advice can you give to patients when they travel? Medications should not be left in the car such as the glove compartment or the trunk. Freezer gel packs should be used for items that need to be refrigerated. Medications should not be placed with checked baggage when flying.
Appropriate storage is essential to ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of medicines. Health care professionals, particularly pharmacists, should advise people where to store medicines. Any medication that has changed colour or consistency should never be taken regardless of the expiration date. Poor storage should be considered as a possible cause when medicines are not providing the desired effect.