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How potent is medicine in warm weather?

Updated on April 21, 2013

“Store at temperatures not exceeding 30 degrees centigrade” – you may find this instruction in the containing box of manufactured medicines. Storage time limitation above 30 degrees may not be specified, so it can be assumed that even short period exposure of the contents above the said temperature may be hazardous to the health of the drug taker.

From the manufacturer to the time it is actually used a drug container has to be handled and stored for some time by somebody.

Not all handlers, often more concerned with money matter considerations, may have idea or might bother with instructions in a drug container that may hardly be readable sometimes depending on the size of the container. One of these handlers is the friendly neighborhood drug store that sells the drug, while another is the end user who buys and/or takes the drug.

It is possible for the drug’s effectiveness to be considerably lower than its intended potency due to hot weather while in storage. A normal summer temperature indoors for example in the Philippine capital city of Manila, some 15 degrees north of the equator, could be in the vicinity of 35 degrees centigrade or over.

This lowered potency might be acceptable for minor drug applications like cold remedies, but could be very risky for drugs used in life threatening illnesses.

Early stage cancer for instance might be treated at home only with prescribed chemotherapy drugs (aside from radiation therapy done by a hospital), and the whole treatment could cover some number of months. The patient may overlook temperature considerations then buy a large quantity in bulk, storing the drug anywhere convenient.


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