Keeping medicines safe

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Keeping medicines safe

Many medicines we take have a label advising that they must be stored below a certain temperature.

This is because some medicines lose their effectiveness when stored above this minimum temperature and some may change form and become difficult to use.

For instance, gelatine capsules may soften, ointments and creams may become runny, and suppositories may melt.

Medicines taken for acute conditions should not be greatly affected by a few days at temperatures higher than normal, but if you are in an area of regular and prolonged high temperatures your medicines should be stored in the coolest, safest place available.

It is also advisable to check with your pharmacist about storing your medicine in the fridge.

Medicines should also not be stored in the bathroom where heat and humidity can affected them. Always check the label and the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for storage instructions, and talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions.

In general, it is important to try to store medicines away from heat, moisture and sunlight. Most medicines should be stored below 25°C and they should never be left in warm places such as in front of a window where the temperature can reach high levels.

NPS MedicineWise advises that people living in the tropics should store their medicines in a part of the house that is cool and dry, for example in an airtight container in the linen cupboard. They should be checked regularly to see that they remain dry, especially during the wet season.

An exception to never storing medicines in the fridge is some liquid medicines and injection vials but only if the label says so. The fridge means the main compartment, not the freezer and if your medicines accidentally freeze, they are almost certainly unstable and therefore should not be used. Once again, check with your pharmacist.

An added challenge is storing medicines while travelling in hot weather and one of the most important things to remember is never to store them in the glove box or on the dashboard.

For patients with such chronic illnesses as diabetes or heart disease, damaged medicine can result in serious consequences so it is not worth taking a risk.

If you think your medicine may have been exposed to higher-than-recommended temperatures, speak to your pharmacist.

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