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Medical Memo
Store medications properly for best results
By by Tom Wullstein, PhD
Brandon Health Mart Pharmacy

March 05. 2013 3:12PM
If you take medications, you know there are a lot of things to consider and remember. “Do I take this with or without food?” “Can I still have grapefruit?” or “Do I have to keep this liquid refrigerated?” And here is one more that you may not have thought about. Are you storing it correctly? Knowing how to store medications, as well as when and where to dispose of them safely, is very important. Follow these tips and you’ll be on the right track.

Unless you need to put your medication in a pill organizer, it is best to keep them in the original prescription bottle. It has your name and dosing information on it. There are also a few medications that need to be dispensed in special bottles and it is especially important that they are not removed from their original packaging.
Instructions from your pharmacist will help identify these situations.

Child-resistant caps are another important reason to leave medications in the original bottle. If you do not have children in your home and have difficulty opening these bottles, you may ask for easy-open caps from your pharmacist. If you use these caps, it is a good idea to still keep medications in a high, locked cabinet to keep pets or any visiting children safe. If a locked cabinet isn’t available, a good alternative is to find a place that is difficult for children to see and reach. Remember: a young child has no idea that these colorful objects are not candy. And even over-the-counter medications and vitamins – particularly those containing iron – can be dangerous, especially if taken in large amounts by children.

To keep a medication safe and most effective, keep it out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. Humidity is an enemy to many drugs. Moisture can cause the active ingredient to degrade, causing the medication to be less potent. Heat is another factor that will break down the active ingredient in medications. This is why the tradition of the old bathroom “medicine cabinet” has been challenged over the last few years.

When you pick up your medication on a summer day, be careful not to leave it in the car for extended periods of time. Temperatures reached in a hot car can be very detrimental to your medication. I once saw a $300 bottle of prescription medicine that had melted together because of this very reason.

A frequent question for pharmacists is how to dispose of old, unused medications. They should not be flushed down the toilet or otherwise added to the water supply for risk of contamination. To keep animals and others from getting into disposed medication, place within undesirable items such as coffee grounds or soiled diapers.

Currently in South Dakota, pharmacies are not allowed to accept medication for disposal. However, the Sioux Falls police department has started a disposal program and you can bring expired or unwanted medications to the downtown police station at 4th and Minnesota. The Brandon Police Department is also scheduling a medication disposal locally later this month. If you have any questions regarding the storage or disposal of medications, please contact your local pharmacist.

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