Those 90-day mail order prescriptions might not be such a great deal after all: A new study by an intrepid Utah pharmacy student just suggested that your mail order prescriptions are definitely spending time in too-hot or too-cold temperatures en route to your door. So much time.
The numbers are comically bad: The study found that during the winter, packages spend 68-87% of their time in conditions outside the medications’ ideal range, and 27-54% of the time during the summer. Most medications are purposely formulated to be stored at room temperature, around 68-77 degrees F. All of the packages in the study fell outside that range during their travels: One Chicago package plummeted to 23 degrees F; a Tucson package reached 116 degrees F.
This is problematic, because hot and cold temperatures can alter medications chemically or physically, which can in turn change their efficacy and safety, says researcher Karlee Paloukos, a pharmacy graduate student at the University of Utah, who presented her study at the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists Midyear Clinical Meeting.
Paloukos shipped 48 bubble-wrapped packages to six cities nationwide during the summer and winter, to mimic the packaging and paths of typical prescription orders through the U.S. Postal Service. She notes that though mailing meds in bubble wrappers without temperature controls or monitors is an industry norm, it has not been fully evaluated for safety.
The take-home message here is to look up the storage suggestions for your medication, and if needed, fill the prescription locally, especially during summer or winter. Ace journalist Katherine Eban has reported other pivotal reasons to pay attention to your medication’s provenance, finding that generic medications produced abroad often contain a variety of contaminants or alternate formulations. Here’s her advice on how to make sure your drugs are safe. In short, pay attention.