Be careful storing those medicines

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When storing drugs, one should strictly follow the instruction so that the drugs do not become ineffective or poisonous, the Food and Drug Administration warned recently.
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Drugs may become harmful even before the expiry date if consumers do not store them properly.

When storing drugs, one should strictly follow the instruction so that the drugs do not become ineffective or poisonous, the Food and Drug Administration warned recently on its WeChat account.

The chemical properties of most drugs change gradually over time, so they usually have an expiration date past which producers would no longer guarantee effectiveness or even safety. Expired penicillin, for example, can decompose into compounds that easily cause allergic reactions and even shock. However, drugs may become harmful even before the expiry date if consumers do not store them properly. Light and temperatures facilitate physical and chemical changes and cause the drug to go bad. 

Light, especially ultraviolet light, can promote chemical reactions in the drug. Therefore, certain drugs like vitamins or glyceryl trinitrate have to be stored in non-transparent containers made of materials such as brown glass or black paper.

Heat also accelerates chemical reactions in compounds. For every 10 degrees Celsius of temperature increase, the rate of reactions can increase by 200 to 400 percent. Most medicine has to be stored at a temperature below 25 degrees Celsius, and antibiotics should be placed in an environment below 20 degrees Celsius. As for drugs like insulin and albumin, they must be put in fridges with a temperature 2-8 degrees. Compounded with moisture, heat can also promote the growth of mold and attract insects, which might produce toxins and make drugs go bad. 

However, for medicine in the forms of syrup or cream, one should avoid exposing them to cold temperature because crystallization or stratification inside the drugs may prevent the patient from ingesting all of the medicinal compounds. 

Other drugs may contain bacteria that prove beneficial for the human body, and the temperature must be kept within a certain range for the bacteria to survive. Finally, if the drugs change color or become crumbled, one should at once discard them even if they are properly stored and remain within the expiration date.

“Drugs, as weapons against diseases, should be treated cautiously just like how one might deal with real weapons,” said the FDA.


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