Keep your medications the right way

PRESERVATION OF MEDICINES: A JUSTIFIED CONCERN

When one has to take medication, it is normal and desirable to ask a number of questions. An important aspect of optimal drug use is the preservation of their quality. How long do you keep your medications? Are products for external use (creams, ointments, eye drops, etc.) the same shelf life as tablets? Should a drug be placed in the fridge? These are all questions that deserve your attention and that your pharmacist can answer.

SELL-BY DATE

An expiry date is always mentioned on the packaging of the medicines you use, but it can sometimes be difficult to spot. It can occur in different ways: “month / year” or “day / month / year”, for example. If you do not find the expiry date on a product’s packaging, or if you do not understand the meaning, ask your pharmacist for help.

The expiry date is determined by the manufacturer of the product. This is the date beyond which the manufacturer can no longer guarantee the quality of his product when it is stored according to the standards he has established. It is therefore no longer necessary to use a medicine beyond this date, because we can not be absolutely certain of the quality, effectiveness or safety of the product.

It is important to note that the expiry date always applies to an unopened product left in its original container. Once this container has been opened or opened, or if it has been stored under conditions other than those recommended, the expiry date is no longer valid. In such a case, you should ask the pharmacist to tell you when the product should not be used.

If you are using an expired medicine, be aware that the active ingredient may have started to break down. This affects the actual amount of medication you are taking, and the effectiveness of the treatment may be reduced. In addition, the degradation of the ingredients can lead to the formation of potentially harmful compounds. Depending on the formulation, the product could even be contaminated by microbes. So there is no risk to take, right?

Row of Medication of Shelf

WHERE TO STORE THE MEDICINES?

In general, it is recognized that drugs must be stored in a place that meets the following conditions:

  • protected from moisture;
  • protected from direct light;
  • free from frost or excessive heat;
  • out of the reach of children and animals.

Places exposed to temperature and humidity variations are not good storage sites for your medications. In this context, avoid at all costs:

  • The bathroom;
  • the car (eg glove box);
  • surfaces near the stove or oven;
  • the edge of a window allowing the rays of the sun to pass.

THE IDEAL TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS

There is no ideal temperature for all medicines with regard to their conservation. Always check the instructions on the package or ask your pharmacist for the recommended temperature range for each product. Some medicines should be kept, for example:

  • between 2 ° C and 8 ° C (so in the refrigerator);
  • between 15 ° C and 30 ° C (therefore at room temperature), sometimes at a maximum temperature of 25 ° C;
  • between 4 ° C and 30 ° C (in a refrigerator or at room temperature).

It is very rare that one has to freeze a product to preserve it. Never put your medication in the freezer; this could compromise their quality significantly.

If no temperature recommendations have been made, store your medicine at room temperature, away from heat and moisture. Note that there is no benefit in refrigerating a product when it is not recommended by the manufacturer or pharmacist.

Also note that storage recommendations may change once a product is opened. This is the case, for example, insulin or some eye drops: they are stored in the refrigerator before the first use, then, once the container is open, they are stored at room temperature.

THE EXPIRY DATE DEPENDING ON THE DOSAGE FORMS

Remember that the expiry date of a product only applies when it is kept in its original container and it has not been opened. Once the product has been transferred to another container, or once the container has been opened, other standards apply. Here are some examples of expiry dates estimated by the pharmacist according to different pharmaceutical forms:

Pharmaceutical form

Expiry date
estimated by the pharmacist

Capsules and tablets

1 year

Eye drops or ointments

30 days

Creams and ointments in a tube

1 year

Creams and ointments transvidated in another container

90 days

Injectable drugs

Variable duration

GENERAL ADVICE:

Here are some additional tips:

  • Whenever possible, keep your medications in their original container.
  • Never mix several drugs in the same container.
  • Never eat a medicine if it looks unusual, tastes or odors, or if you know it has not been stored properly.
  • Only take medicines that are intended for you or that you have bought yourself. Do not use those of others.
  • Clean up your pharmacy regularly.
  • Always bring your old medicine back to the pharmacy. Laboratory staff will know how to dispose of it safely.
  • If you must travel with medication, be sure to follow the recommendations for storage. Your pharmacist can advise you on ways to ensure their optimal preservation during your travels.

The best strategy for drug conservation is always to seek the advice of the pharmacist, the drug specialist. This will ensure the use of products of maximum quality and safety. Nobody likes to take unnecessary risks with drugs, so be careful!

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