With a heatwave sweeping the country, NPS MedicineWise is reminding people that extremes in temperature, particularly heat, can impact the effectiveness of medicines.
Clinical adviser at NPS MedicineWise, Dr Philippa Binns, says that extreme temperatures can make it difficult to control the conditions in which medicines are stored but there are strategies that can be used to keep them safe and effective.
“Most medicines need to be stored under 25°C, so if you’re commuting or travelling, preparing for the possibility of bushfire and evacuation, or think your area could experience a temporary loss of electricity, you might need to use a cooler bag, esky or insulated pouch to store your medicines,” says Dr Binns.
Medicines may no longer work properly when stored above the maximum temperature recommended. Some medicines can also change their form in the heat and become difficult to use. For example, gelatin capsules may soften and stick together, ointments and creams may become runny, and suppositories may melt.
“As a general year-round rule, don’t leave medicines in a warm place, such as above the stove or in front of a west-facing window. Rather, find a cool, dry place away from direct heat, moisture and sunlight, and out of the sight and reach of children,” says Dr Binns.
“If you’re driving, don’t store your medicines in the glove box or dashboard, and if you have to take your medicines while out and about, take with you only what you need for the day, and leave the remainder at home.
“The fridge is actually not the best place for some medicines, because it can be too cold and too wet, but there are exceptions.
“Many liquid medicines and injections should in fact be stored in the fridge, but only if the label says so. And when the label says the fridge, this means the main compartment of the fridge — not the freezer. If the medicines do accidentally freeze, check with a pharmacist to make sure they are still usable.”
In addition to thinking about how to store your medicines while travelling, Dr Binns is also reminding people in possible bushfire evacuation zones, or people who might be travelling and affected by road closures, to remember to pack enough medicines and prescriptions to last if they need to be away from home for an unexpected length of time.
“You should also be sure to know the active ingredient in your usual medicines so that you can get the right medicine from a different pharmacy if you need to — and to ensure you don’t double up on doses of the same medicine,” says Dr Binns.
“Also, don't forget to take a complete and up-to-date Medicines List to help you keep track of your medicines and to ensure you always have your medicine details on hand.”