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Storing Medication Safely: How to Prevent the Cure from Becoming the Disease

Lubabah Memon | June 6, 2016 @ 2:50 PM

When you’re sick and really need your pills, the last thing you want to do is find that your medication has been damaged because of improper storage.  With all that we have to do, it’s easy to get lazy with these things and not be as cautious as we should be.  Proper storage of medication is especially important for pharmaceutical companies.  When you’re storing tons of medicine, you want to make sure that the medication is stored properly so it’s not damaged—damaged medicine will only be toxic to patients.  That definitely wouldn’t be good for business, that’s for sure!

If you’re looking to clear out some space in your home and want to put some of your medicine in your storage unit, or if you’re a pharmaceutical company that needs some storage space for medication that has not been sold yet, you’ll need to take some precautions to ensure that the quality of the medication is at its best.  Proper storage of medication is actually not too complicated, but there are some minute details that we would like to discuss in order to ensure that you’re doing all that you can to significantly reduce the chances of damage to your medication.

Storing in a Storage Unit

When looking for the perfect storage facility in which to rent a unit for your medication, the first thing you should consider is location.  Make sure that you pick a place that’s close by so that you can easily access your medication and other medical supplies.

Next, make sure that you rent a unit that has climate control.  This is absolutely necessary to prevent damage to the medication.  To maintain high quality of your medication, make sure to keep the temperature between 68 and 77 degrees, which is indicated on most labels.  Going outside of this range significantly increases the likelihood that the medication will start to degrade.  You also have to make sure that the unit’s humidity can be controlled.  Exposing medication to humidity can ruin it by decreasing its shelf life, lessening its effectiveness, altering the chemical so it has a different effect on the body, and can sometimes even make it toxic.  Simply controlling the temperature and humidity of the unit can eliminate all of these negative effects.

Security is a Big Deal

Another major feature that you should look for in a facility in which you will be storing your medication is security.  Ensuring that your facility has top-notch security should be of utmost importance to you, especially if you’re storing on behalf of a pharmaceutical company.  You don’t want thieves getting into your unit and taking all of your medication.  This isn’t just a major financial loss; it’s a major liability as well. If you find your medication being sold out on the streets and misused, not only will it be harmful to the public, but it will also be horrible for your company name.  To reduce the risk of theft, try to find facilities that have some of the following security features:  24-hour video surveillance, on-site managers, security guards, units with individual alarms on them, and gates with personal access codes.  You may not be able to find all of these things in one facility, but the more you find, the better off you’ll be.

The Storage Process

Once you have found a facility that you’re happy with, you can get into the actual storage part of things.  For very strong, addictive, and prescription medications such as Vicodin, we would recommend storing them in boxes that can be locked, so even if someone gets into your unit, these medicines will be harder to get to and can’t be abused.

As mentioned before, climate and humidity control are necessary because heat, air, light, and moisture can damage medication.

Keep different medicines separated so it’s not easy to mix them up.  Also, try to make sure all bottles are tightly fastened so even if a bottle falls, the medication will be safe inside.  You should also try to store the medicine on shelves to avoid water damage in case of leaks that occur in your unit.

These are the very basics and most important things that you need to take care of in order to properly store your medication in a storage unit.

Storing Medication in Your Home

Most people like to store their medication in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, but this is a horrible idea and a big no-no.  The bathroom cabinet is constantly exposed to heat and moisture from showers, baths, and the sink, and we already know that heat and moisture can cause medicine to become less potent and damaged. To prevent damage, make sure you store the medication in a cool, dry place.   Some other places to avoid include the area near the stove, sink, hot appliances, and windowsill.  The best place to store medicine in your home is to put it in your dresser drawer, in a storage box in one of your rooms, or in a closet.

Do not refrigerate any medicine unless you’re advised to do so by your doctor or pharmacist.  Most oral medication such as aspirin should be stored at room temperature, but certain things like insulin and other injectables need to be refrigerated before you use them.

Lastly, keep all medication in its original container.  Take the cotton ball out of medicine bottles because it pulls moisture into the bottle.

How Do I Know if the Medication is Damaged?

The first and most obvious test to see if the medication is damaged is to check the expiration date.  However, sometimes the medication is damaged even if it isn’t expired.  There are some other things that you can do to check if you should be disposing of a particular medication.

If the color, smell, and/or texture of the medicine has changed, it is damaged and can even make you sick.  Some other indications include:  pills sticking together, pills that are softer or harder than normal, or are chipped or cracked.  Pills that get wet or are exposed to water are also damaged and should not be used.

Disposing of Medication

For some odd reason, people tend to have trouble parting with their medication, even when it’s expired.  You definitely shouldn’t keep old or unused medicine around because you might accidentally use it if you’re not paying attention, and this can be very harmful to your health.  Make sure that you’re regularly cleaning out your medicine drawer or storage unit for old or damaged medication (about every six months or so).

There are different methods of disposing of medication, all of which are perfectly safe.  Don’t flush any medicine down the toilet unless you’re instructed to do so by a pharmacist or it says it on the label.  The FDA actually has a list of medication that can be flushed away if you’re uncertain about a particular kind.

If you want to throw it in the trash, you have to first mix it with something that will ruin it, such as kitty litter or coffee grounds.  Remove or scratch off personal information on the label of the bottle, and do not crush tablets or capsules.

You can also take unused medicine to a pharmacy to have them dispose of it properly.  Some local law enforcement has National Prescription Drug Take Back Days and some even have permanent take-back locations that you can check out.

If you’re still uncertain about how to properly dispose of a particular type of medication, check the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for more information.

Overall, storing medication and disposing of it isn’t too complicated, but it’s good to have some guidance as to how to do so.  By taking just a few extra minutes to store your medication properly, you can ensure that its quality is not compromised, it’s at its peak effectiveness, and it has a long shelf life.

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