Oct 3, 2005: What is the Stability of Refrigerated Medications at Room Temperature ?

Several common medications have labels instructing consumers to store them in the refrigerator.  Following catastrophic events, such as Hurricanes Ivan last year and Katrina this year, numerous people were left without power for an extended amount of time. News journalists reported diabetics not taking their insulin due to lack of refrigeration. Non-compliance with medications such as insulin is a significant health risk.  While consumers should attempt to store medications as directed (such as protecting from extreme temperatures, humidity or light) the following are manufacturer’s guidelines regarding room temperature stability:

1.    Insulin – stable at room temperature for 28 days (<86°F). May have slight loss of potency at higher temperature or after 30 days. Do not use if change in appearance. Insulin Detemir (Levemir®) can be stored at room temperature for 42 days.
2.    Augmentin Suspension – degrades at room temperature and develops a brown discoloration. Is not harmful, but the drug breaks down and has a noxious odor and taste. Not recommended to take if not refrigerated or once color changes.
3.    Amoxicillin Suspension – stable at room temperature (<86°F). Refrigeration improves taste, but is not required for stability.
4.    Alphagan ophthalmic drops – maintains full potency for 12 months up to 86°F and full potency for 6 months up to 104°F.
5.    Travatan ophthalmic drops – maintains full potency for 6 months up to 104°F.

None of these products should be frozen.  During a power outage with room temperature exceeding 86°F, products should be stored in the coolest area of the home.  During power outages in the winter, due to ice storms or other causes, care should be taken not to let products be stored in outdoor areas where they could freeze. 

This question of the week was submitted by Kim Barker Pharm D, Clinical Coordinator of the Tennessee Poison Center.

I am interested in any questions you would like answered in the Question of the Week.  Please email me with any suggestion at Donna.Seger@Vanderbilt.edu.

Donna Seger, MD
Medical Director
Tennessee Poison Center