Temperature-Sensitive Drugs List + Storage Guidelines

January 26, 2024
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We are living in a time of unprecedented medical innovation. Modern medicine has provided solutions to diseases and ailments that were thought to be impossible to cure or manage just a century ago. Consider, for example, how quickly the global medical community was able to create the COVID-19 vaccines. 

The reality, however, is that there are so many challenges in storing and transporting pharmaceutical products. Many drugs are sensitive to temperature variations, resulting in them requiring careful storage and handling to maintain their potency. In this guide, you’ll find a temperature-sensitive drug list as well as information on how to store and transport medication for you or your family. 

Temperature-sensitive drugs list

Drug sensitivity comes down to two key factors: time and temperature. Most drugs and pharmaceutical products have a short shelf-life so they need to be transported quickly and carefully to ensure that they remain safe and with a long enough usage window. Once delivered, they need to be stored correctly because most drugs react negatively to fluctuating temperatures which could cause them to become ineffective or even harmful. 

Both in transportation and storage of your drugs, you face the challenge of dealing with time and temperature factors. You have to be able to handle your medication according to temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical product requirements. Let’s explore a temperature-sensitive drug list and some examples for each. 

Refrigerated medications (2°C - 8°C / 36°F - 46°F):

Examples of drugs that need to be refrigerated:

  • Some insulin medications (Humulin, Novolin, Lantus)
  • Certain Antibiotics (Amoxicillin/clavulanate suspension)
  • Biological Products (monoclonal antibodies)
  • Typhoid vaccine, live oral 
  • Amphotericin B and ophthalmic 
  • Interferon gamma-1b 
  • Other injections like interferon and Filgrastim (more examples include Alprostadil injection, Calcitonin injectable, and Etanercept injection) 
  • Some eye drops (latanoprost and chloramphenicol)
  • Ear drops (chloramphenicol)
  • Nasal sprays (Fortica, Miacalcin)
  • Oral drops (Lorazepam intensol oral concentrate, Neurontin)
  • Ritonavir capsules (Norvir)
  • Cervical gel (Prepidil)

Refrigeration not only extends the shelf life of drugs and pharmaceuticals but also safeguards patients from receiving compromised doses. Refrigeration plays a crucial role in preserving the integrity of medications by preventing degradation, chemical changes, or loss of potency that may occur when exposed to higher or lower temperatures. Many pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, insulin, and certain antibiotics, are highly susceptible to temperature fluctuations. Drugs that require refrigeration must be kept between 2 - 8 Celsius.

Frozen Medications (-20°C / -4°F or colder):

Examples of drugs that need to be Frozen:

  • Varicella chickenpox vaccine (Varivax)
  • Zoster shingles vaccine (Zostavax)
  • RNA and DNA samples 
  • Blood and plasma products 

When certain medications are exposed to higher temperatures, molecular structures can break down, proteins may denature, and the overall stability of the drug can be compromised. Freezing pharmaceuticals at specified temperatures helps to slow down or inhibit these processes. 

Freezing effectively puts the pharmaceutical in a state of suspended animation, preventing or significantly delaying the deterioration of its therapeutic properties. The meticulous control of temperature is particularly critical for ensuring the efficacy, safety, and extended shelf life of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products, contributing to their overall quality and reliability for patient use.

Controlled Room Temperature (15°C - 25°C / 59°F - 77°F)

Examples of drugs that can be stored at room temperature:

  • Inhaled Medications (Albuterol inhalers)
  • Certain Antibiotics (Amoxicillin capsules, cephalexin)
  • Antifungal Medications (Fluconazole)
  • EpiPens (epinephrine):
  • Birth Control Pills (Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yaz)

Many medications can be stored at room temperature due to their inherent stability under moderate environmental conditions. The formulations of these drugs are designed to withstand a range of temperatures without significant degradation.  

Pharmaceutical manufacturers carefully select excipients (ingredients) and design drug formulations to enhance stability and reduce susceptibility to temperature-related changes. This allows medications to remain potent and safe when stored at typical room temperatures, which is important for both patients and healthcare providers. 

Storage and handling guidelines

Those who handle temperature-sensitive drugs must adhere to their specific storage guidelines to ensure the integrity and efficacy of temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products. These are the storage guidelines to be mindful of when storing temperature-sensitive medications:

1. Read and follow instructions

Always adhere to the storage instructions provided by the medication's packaging or your healthcare provider. This information typically includes the recommended temperature range and any specific storage conditions.

2. Use a dedicated storage area

Designate a specific storage area for medications, especially those requiring refrigeration. This helps minimize temperature fluctuations and ensures a more controlled environment.

3. Check expiry dates

Regularly inspect medication for expiration dates and discard any that have expired. Expired medications may not only be less effective but could also pose potential health risks.

4. Maintain consistent temperatures

Keep medications within the recommended temperature range. For refrigerated items, use a dedicated refrigerator with a consistent temperature, avoiding placing medications in the door where temperatures may fluctuate.

5. Use insulated packaging for travel

When traveling with temperature-sensitive medications, use insulated packaging or a cool pack to maintain the required temperature. Check with your healthcare provider for specific travel recommendations.

8. Keep medications in original packaging

Store medications in their original packaging with proper labeling. This ensures you have all the necessary information, including dosage instructions and potential side effects.

7. Be aware of medication interactions

Some medications may interact with each other, and their stability can be affected when stored together. Consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice on proper storage when taking multiple medications.

9. Regularly monitor storage conditions

Periodically check the storage conditions of your medications, especially those in the refrigerator. If you suspect any deviation from the recommended conditions, consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

10. Dispose properly

Dispose of unused or expired medications according to local regulations. Do not flush them down the toilet unless instructed to do so, as this may have environmental implications. Many pharmacies offer medication disposal services.

Get the tech you need

If you are serious about safeguarding the integrity of your temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products, you need to know whether your medication is on the temperature-sensitive drug list, follow the right procedures, and invest in innovative temperature-tracking technologies. 

Get access to Varcode’s Smart TagTM solution, our cutting-edge temperature tracking technology. You’ll be able to choose the Smart TagTM that fits your unique needs. Get the precise temperature monitoring solution needed to give you peace of mind when transporting or storing temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical products. Don't compromise on the safety and efficacy of your medications—shop our Smart TagTM bundles today.

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