Pharmacists Warn Extreme Heat Could Impact Medications

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COLUMBIA - With temperatures reaching into the triple digits this summer, many pharmacists are warning customers of the dangers of overheated medications. Extreme heat can melt some medications, especially capsules and gels, so it's important to keep medicine at the suggested temperatures written on the label. 

"Generally speaking medicines are going to break down and become ineffective more quickly in a warm environment so some medicines are more sensitive to that than others," said Bill Morrissey, a pharmacist at Kilgore's Medical Pharmacy in Columbia. 

So what's the problem? Not too much if it's just ibuprofen or other over the counter medications. But if you have a prescription for daily heart medications or blood thinners, the slightest change in temperature could weaken your prescription. 

"It's definitely not something to take lightly," said Erica Hopkins-Wadlow, a pharmacist at D&H Pharmacy in Columbia. "Medications are important and a lot of people complain about how much they cost so if you're paying that much for a prescription, definitely treat it with care and make sure you take care of it."

That means keeping medications out of hot cars, where temperatures can be dozens of degrees hotter the triple digit temperatures outside

"Even car rides...I've had people bring [medicine] back and show me. I can tell it's been in their car and they say 'I swear I just had it on the ride over' and you can just feel it--- it's hot," Hopkins-Wadlow. "So just in transit it can get above the temperature recommended."

Here are some suggestions from Columbia pharmacists about keeping your prescriptions safe in extreme heat:

  • Go straight home after picking up your prescription from the pharmacy.
  • If you keep shopping, keep your medications with you.
  • Only carry the medication you need for that day instead of bringing your whole supply.
  • Ask your pharmacist what can happen to your medication if it's overheated.

Morrisey said different medications overheat at different temperatures. He suggests the best thing to do is talk to your pharmacist - that's what they're there for.

"If you want to draw the line for all medicines then you're going to air on the caution side and not risk anything," said Morrisey. "In reality a lot of medicines have good stability at some of the more extreme temperatures."