Summer heat increases need for medication temperature monitoring
Wednesday, Jul 24th 2013

As extreme heat grips the country, pharmacies, patients and anyone else storing prescription drugs need to keep medication cool using temperature monitoring equipment in order to ensure its effectiveness.

In months like July and August, temperatures can easily exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit in most of the United States on an especially hot day. Inside cars or mailboxes, temperatures can get as high as 100 degrees or even up to 140 degrees F. Although this is not new information, it is especially noteworthy for anyone storing prescription medication.

Not everyone may realize it, but prescription medication can break down under extreme heat. Papatya Tankut, vice president of professional pharmacy services for CVS pharmacy, told AgingCare.com that ideally prescription drugs should be kept at a temperature between 68 and 77 degrees.

However, proper storage can vary depending on the type of drug in questions, according to AgingCare.com. For instance, inhaled prescriptions, diabetes medication and eye drops often have specific care instructions that can fall outside the median norm. When prescription medication is not kept under these ideal conditions, the heat can change the chemical composition of the drug in question and potentially make them ineffective, pharmacist Khoa Huynh told ABC affiliate KFSN.

How summer affects prescription drug temperature monitoring
For most individuals and organizations, keeping medication at this range at all times is simple thanks to temperature-controlled rooms or cold storage units. However, summer can complicate these measures.

In particular, the transportation aspect of the prescription drug supply chain is especially fraught with potential issues during the summer. Even though a medication may be kept at ideal conditions at the pharmacy, leaving it in a hot car or inside a mailbox for even a few hours can render the drug unusable. As such, organizations and people should take every precaution possible to limit the amount of time a medication is transported in a vehicle during the summer months. After all, even forgetting a bottle of pills in a car for just a few minutes can be all the time that's needed for them to go bad.

"We should always check," Huynh advised people who transport medication in their cars, according to KFSN. "Definitely check the backseat, check your console just to make sure you don't have any of your eye drops or medications and just take it out, take it with you, put it in your bag and it should be safe that way."

Another potential issue is the threat posed by brownouts and blackouts. Between severe thunderstorms or air conditioning units draining electricity resources, power outages are a constant problem in many parts of the country during the summer months. As such, individuals and organizations that keep prescription medication in refrigeration units should be sure to have contingency plans in place just in case the power goes out, according to AgingCare.com.

Regardless of the time of year, healthcare providers and others should utilize temperature monitoring equipment like a temperature sensor to make sure prescription drugs are always kept at the right temperature. Since heat can damage life-saving medication, it is imperative that the drugs are not placed in a room that will cause them to break down and become ineffective.