Will your medicines survive the WA heatwave?

Prescription medication

With temperatures in Western Australia expected to stay high for some time, it’s important to think about how to store your medicines in the hot weather.

Some medicines lose their effectiveness when they’re stored above a certain temperature and others are affected by light. NPS MedicineWise is taking this opportunity to remind people to be aware of how to store and transport their medicines in the heat.

“Medicines should be stored away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight, but to make this a little more complicated, they shouldn’t be stored in the fridge either unless the label says so,” says pharmacist and NPS MedicineWise spokesperson Rawa Osman.

“Most medicines should be stored below 25°C or 30°C. Don’t leave them in a warm place, such as above the stove or in front of a west-facing window, and definitely not on the car dashboard,” she says.

“This is important because heat can change the effectiveness and safety of a medicine, and make some medicines change their form and become difficult to use. For example, gelatin capsules may soften and stick together and ointments and creams may become runny.”

People are encouraged to read the medicine label or the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for storage instructions, talk to their pharmacist if they have any questions, or phone NPS Medicines Line.

“Many liquid medicines and injection vials should be stored in the fridge, but check to make sure their label says so,” says Ms Osman.

“If the medicines accidentally freeze, check with a pharmacist before using them to make sure they are still usable.”

If you’re out and about for the day in the heat, consider taking with you only the medicines you need, and leave the remainder at home. Medicines normally kept in the fridge can be put in a small esky or insulated lunchbox, which will help keep them as cool and dry as possible. A frozen cold pack may reduce the temperature of the medicine to below its recommended storage temperature, or even freeze the medicine, so these aren’t actually recommended.

Key points for keeping your cool when it comes to medicines:
• Always check the label for storage conditions
• Store medicines away from heat, moisture and sunlight
• Don’t store medicines in the fridge unless the label says so
• When the weather is hot, take with you only the medicines you need and keep them as cool and dry as possible
• Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions

NPS MedicineWise has more information about the safe storage of medicines and about managing medicines.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).