While all of these locations might seem logical and/or convenient, experts advise that none of these locations are good places to keep medications safe and effective.
“Everyone thinks the bathroom medicine cabinet is the place to store medicines, but it’s among the worst places because of high humidity,” says Bethanne Brown, PharmD, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.
“The top of the refrigerator, while a safe place to store medication away from children, is also not ideal because the heat generated from the refrigerator can cause condensation in the medication vials.”
What Brown teaches future pharmacists, who in turn educate patients on prescription adherence, is that temperature regulation—with both over-the-counter and prescription medications—is key to keeping the chemical integrity of medications intact.
According to Brown, while there are some injectable medications such as insulin and a few antibiotic suspensions like amoxicillin or medications that are used rectally such as suppositories that require refrigeration, most medications come in tablet or capsule form and remain stable at room temperature—generally considered to be around 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
No medications, she says, should be subjected to temperatures hotter than 85 degrees or lower than 32 degrees.
“Extreme heat is just as bad as extreme cold in terms of stability for all medications in the home,” she notes, emphasizing that medications should also never be left in the car during a heat wave or blizzard.
When severe temperature changes happen, she says, the chemical composition of the medication begins to break down, causing the medication to become less effective. This can become life-threatening in cases where people are medication dependent such as with insulin or heart medications such as nitroglycerin.
So where does one store medications to ensure their effectiveness?
Aside from medications that require refrigeration, Brown advises that high cabinets in the kitchen, away from heat sources such as stovetops or ovens, are good places for temperature regulation while also keeping the medication out of the reach of small children.
People should also pay close attention to how they store their medications because expiration dates are based on storing as recommended, she says.
And if in doubt how to store your medications, the best thing to do is ask your pharmacist.
Media Contact: Angela Koenig, 513-558-4625