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Where You Store Your Medicine Could Lead to Shortened Expiration Date, Increased Toxicities

Where You Store Your Medicine Could Lead to Shortened Expiration Date, Increased Toxicities

Almost all bathrooms come equipped with a medicine cabinet, so that would be the perfect place to store your prescription and over-the-counter medications, right? Wrong. Keeping your medication in the bathroom medicine cabinet can lead to reduced drug efficacy and it may cause unwanted side effects. The bathroom is one of the worst places to store your medication because the warmth and moisture can lead to rapid drug decomposition.


Most medications need to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. In order for a drug to be effective it must retain its original chemical composition, potency, and stability. There are many environmental factors that can alter the chemical composition of your medication. The main culprits? Moisture, temperature, and light. At the very least, these factors can render your medication ineffective far before the set expiration date. More serious issues may arise if the chemical composition is changed to one that could cause negative side effects such as stomach upset or other toxicities. Let's talk about about these factors in more detail.


Simply put, moisture in the air can degrade medication. Although moisture affects tablets and capsules, the dosage forms that are most sensitive to moisture are Orally Disintegrating Tablets (ODT). Orally disintegrating tablets, sometimes referred to as quick dissolving tablets, are tablets that dissolve rapidly on your tongue, under your tongue (sublingual), or between your cheek and gums (buccal).

Moisture can alter testing supplies as well. Moisture can be a cause of false positive pregnancy tests. And since moisture deteriorates blood glucose test strips, these defective test strips can give inaccurate (and sometimes extreme) blood sugar level results.


Most medications need to be stored at room temperature, 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C). Extreme hot or cold temperatures can change the chemical properties of drugs, making them ineffective.

To avoid extreme temperatures, do not store your medication:

·                                 In the bathroom due to the heat and humidity 

·                                 In the kitchen near the stove or other hot appliances 

·                                 In the car, especially the glove compartment and trunk 

·                                 In checked baggage when traveling (the baggage compartments on aircrafts are not temperature controlled)

Keep in mind that there are some medications that must be refrigerated

If you are not sure whether your medication should be refrigerated or not, ask your pharmacist and read the medication information sheet that comes with your medication.

I would also like to point out that heat isn't the only temperature culprit. Freezing medication can render medication ineffective as well. Insulin, such as Lantus®, is an example of medication that must be discarded if it is frozen.


Have you ever wondered why the pharmacy always dispenses medication in amber colored vials? The reasoning behind this is to protect the medication from sunlight. UV light can change the chemical composition of photosensitive drugs. It is important to avoid placing your medication in sunlit areas such as windowsills.



So what is the best way to store your medication?

Keep your medications in a cool, dry, dark place. Some ideal places include your bedroom or hallway cabinet. If your medication needs to be refrigerated, keep it in a shelf separate from other refrigerated items.

Keep medication up and away and out of sight. According to the CDC, over 60,000 young children end up in emergency rooms each year because they get into medicines that are easily accessible. Keep your medicine either out of reach or in a locked medicine box to protect young children and even pets. This will also prevent unwanted theft of your medication.

If you are traveling, take your medications with you in your carry-on luggage.Travelers are allowed to bring their medications on board however the medication will be screened during the security checkpoint.

Clinical Pharmacology 
CDC Medication Storage 
Up & Away Initiative 


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