Ms Shyamala Narayanaswamy, Pharmacy Practice Manager, Pharmacy Department at Singapore General Hospital gives tips on how to store medications.
Q: I bought three months’ worth of medicines. Is it advisable to store them in the refrigerator?
A: Proper storage of medicines is crucial to ensure their effectiveness and potency. All medicines must be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and moisture. Some medicines require special storage conditions such as in the refrigerator, or even the freezer. Such medicines can expire quickly if they are improperly stored at room temperature, becoming toxic or less effective.
Some examples of medicines that require refrigeration are hormone injections used during IVF (in vitro fertilisation), and unopened vials of insulin. Very few medicines require freezing, but an example would be vaccine injections.
Not all medicines need to be refrigerated though. In fact, they may be adversely affected by the fluctuating temperatures of home refrigerators. Another problem is that the medicines may freeze inadvertently, becoming damaged by the solid water crystals that form.
Patients are advised to read the pharmacy labels carefully before storing their medicines at home. Only medicines that carry the instruction “Refrigerate, do not freeze” should be stored in the refrigerator, preferably in the main compartment away from the door or the cooling vent area.
If you’re in doubt, speak to your pharmacist.