pharmacy temperature monitoring

October 15, 2021

Pharmacy Temperature Monitoring: How Does It Work?

The precision that’s necessary for hospitals is truly amazing. Every area, every wing, and every room needs to conform to the utmost sanitary and environmental standards.

Aspects like lighting, airflow, and temperature all need to be taken into account to make sure patients are receiving the best care possible. All of these factors are vital in keeping the quality of treatments and medications high.

Pharmacy temperature monitoring is an important part of this process. Medications need to be traveled and be on the shelf at a particular optimal temperature. Not doing so could drastically reduce their effectiveness.

The last thing a pharmacist wants is to prescribe medication only to have it reduced to a sugar pill because of improper pharmacy fridge temperature. It’s a fascinating subject but not one that we think about often.

Today, we’re going to discuss all aspects of pharmacy temperature monitoring. We’ll talk about advanced technologies like remote temperature monitoring systems. We’ll also cover how the optimal temperature can affect controlled drugs.

By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert on pharmacy temperature monitoring. You may even walk away with some new temperature monitoring system best practices to take back to your team.

But there’s a lot of information to cover, so let’s get going!

Why Is Pharmacy Temperature Monitoring Important

All medications have an ideal temperature. If they are stored outside that range, it can drastically reduce their effectiveness. For most medications, this temperature range is 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The good news is that this temperature range falls right around room temperature. It’s relatively easy and cost-effective for pharmacies and other healthcare facilities to store medication in that range.

But that isn’t the acceptable range for all medications. Certain medications require refrigeration. This is because their optimal storage temperature rests much lower than the average room temperature.

Heat Is the Enemy

Although some medications can thrive at room temperature, they shouldn’t get much warmer than that. Heat can do strange things to a wide range of medications.

If the medication gets too hot, it may stop working. What’s even worse is that exposure to extreme temperatures may alter the medication’s chemical makeup entirely.

Giving a patient medication that doesn’t work is one thing. But what if extreme temperatures caused the medication to transform into something harmful to the body? Now, pharmacists have a whole different set of circumstances on their hands.

What Alters A Medication?

Pharmacies without adequate pharmacy temperature monitoring run the risk of having their medications altered entirely. Any exposure to extreme conditions can cause medications to become a different substance entirely.

An example of this is antibiotic medications. These medications are fairly harmless. Most doctors prescribe them as part of a complete course of medication for various treatments.

Where the problem arises, however, is if these antibiotic medications experience exposure to extreme heat. The elevated temperatures will cause the medication to decay. When this happens, they can cause harmful stomach or kidney issues in patients that decide to ingest them.

This is potentially scary because this type of organ damage from “rotten” antibiotic medications can have long-term effects. In addition, this type of damage to the medication due to heat exposure can be challenging for pharmacists to reverse.

This chemical alteration can also occur in hormonal medications and birth control. Hormonal medications are medications that help to deal with glandular issues. A popular example would be thyroid medications.

These hormonal medications and birth control are very important to people who take them. Birth control does more than simply prevent pregnancy. A person may be on a regular dose of birth control to prevent serious cervical circumstances. Taking a medication that’s altered or made useless is the last thing these people need.

Altering Testing Supplies

In addition to medications, some at-home medical testing methods can change due to heat exposure. Things like diabetic test strips, pregnancy tests, and ovulation tests must stay at room temperature.

If they’re not, they could become ineffective or produce incorrect results.

Why Medications Stop Working

Improper pharmacy temperature monitoring can also result in medications not working anymore. Cold isn’t usually the culprit of damaged medications. This usually occurs after medications experience elevated temperatures.

Exposure to extreme heat starts to dilute the potency of certain medications. The active ingredient is still present in the medication. But, it’s no longer as potent as it needs to be to get the job done.

Once a medication becomes diluted, it won’t have the same effect on your body as it used to. People may not notice any difference after taking it. This can be a potentially dangerous situation because it might result in patients taking more medication than their recommended dosage.

Patients, and pharmacists alike, don’t want to get stuck paying for medications that don’t work. This is why all medication storage areas should be at room temperature or below.

Proper “room temperature” would be between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Proper pharmacy fridge temperature would be between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

Refrigeration is important for injectable medications like insulin. If insulin isn’t kept at the proper pharmacy fridge temperature, it could make a diabetic patient’s insulin useless. It could be a potentially life-threatening scenario.

This is why fridge temperature monitoring is such an important part of pharmacy best practices.

How To Prepare Your Facility

Now, you know all of the potential hazards that can result from improper pharmacy temperature monitoring. The challenge is that it’s very easy for medications to be exposed to high-heat environments. Proper fridge temperature is something that pharmacies, blood banks, labs, and other medical facilities need to constantly be aware of. 

Pharmacies may do a great job of keeping their medications stored at the proper temperatures, but unexpected events can occur. A power outage or heatwave outside can alter the temperature just enough to do damage to pharmaceutical storage cabinets and refrigerators.

The result is not only ineffective or dangerous medication. Heat exposure can also mean a significant loss of money for a pharmacy to discard spoiled medications.

We want to help everyone avoid that. Here is a rundown of tips you and your team can use to keep your facility protected from temperature issues—both expected and unexpected.

1. Don’t Overlook Packaging

Refrigeration and pharmacy temperature monitoring are your first line of defense. But, in the case of a power outage or heatwave, you need some sort of backup plan. Storing your medication in sufficient packaging can serve as exactly that.

But, what does proper packaging look like? Well, proper packaging means the medication is sealed and covered well. Doing this the right way can shield the medication from increasing temperatures.

The slower the temperature of the medication increases means the more time you have to fix a power outage or adjust to an external heatwave.

Medications that are in containers also need a proper seal. Medical technicians should double-check any screw-on tops to make sure they are completely closed. Seals on medications should be inspected, as well, to make sure they haven’t been broken.

Pharmacists should also hesitate to open new packages of medication. New packages should remain completely sealed until necessary. If you, or a staff member, open a package of medication prematurely, it could cause that medication to become contaminated.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Vent

Ventilation is another key aspect of controlled drug storage. Pharmacies should be taking advantage of any windows, fans, and air vents on-site. Anything you can do to increase airflow throughout your facility will help with medication storage.

Although windows should stay open, you must have a screen for them. Yes, airflow is important, but so is keeping your pharmacy, lab, or blood bank clean and sanitary.

It’s also a good idea to leave space between the boxes stored in your pharmacy. Each box should receive fresh air. Also, avoid stacking boxes directly on top of each other.

3. Circulation Is Important

Once you increase airflow into the pharmacy or lab, you need to ensure that air is in circulation to all parts of the facility. It’s easy to get air flowing to the main floor where you and your team are working. But, air also needs to go into other areas.

One of the most important areas would be any medication storage rooms. Windows and air vents may be enough to start the process, but they may need some help. If you’re storing your medications in a bigger facility, it may be wise to invest in some ceiling fans.

This can be a gamechanger in certain areas of the country where it’s hotter, and air tends to be more stagnant. Examples would be Arizona or Florida.

This is another reason why not stacking your boxes is so important. Air needs to circulate to every box. Take time and effort to plan the storage of your boxes of medication.

The last thing you want is to lose good medication inventory because of a lack of planning.

4. Your Cooling System

One thing that all pharmacies should rely on is good air conditioning. Airflow and ventilation won’t help you if the air circulating your facility is hot. This will just make medications useless faster.

The challenge that a lot of pharmacies face is that air conditioners can be a big expense. The unit itself can cost thousands of dollars, and then you’ll need to develop some sort of plan for regular upkeep and maintenance.

But, if you can afford to purchase and properly maintain an air conditioner, it can make your pharmacy, lab, or blood bank an ideal environment for medication storage.

Cold Chain

We’re spending a lot of time going over the storage of medications. But, proper storage temperature needs to stay consistent throughout the process. Medication supply chains need to focus on proper temperature throughout the process.

This is where the idea of the Cold Chain comes in. Medications need to be kept at proper temperatures during the manufacturing and shipping phases, as well as during storage at your pharmacy.

A medicine company’s manufacturing plant will take its own individual measures to control the temperature as the medication is made and bottled. Then, during shipping, transport companies will take measures such as refrigerated trucks and coolers to ensure the medicine maintains the temperature in transit.

Finally, it gets to you and your team. And, we already know you’re implementing the steps mentioned above to take care of things on your end.

Tools To Help

Pharmacy temperature monitoring is serious business. Making sure your medicine is at the proper temperature can make or break your medical facility.

But, don’t worry. You’re not alone. 

Sensoscientific offers products and services to help you develop a proper pharmacy temperature control system. Clients can take advantage of our Sensoscientific cloud services. This will allow you to operate a remote temperature monitoring system that allows you access from anywhere via wi-fi.

This is an amazing tool for keeping you on top of any change in temperature as it occurs in real-time.

Revolutionizing Recalibration

Sensoscientific can also provide clients with calibration services. Traditional calibration services aren’t going to cut it anymore. Our calibration techniques remove all of the hassles of the traditional methods.

Normally, pharmacies and other facilities would need to go through a complex process. You need to order a recalibration, get a return authorization code, and remove the unit from your storage cabinet.

From there, it would need to be shipped to the calibration company and then re-installed when it’s returned to you. It becomes a very challenging process because you need a backup system in place during calibration.

Our calibration system offers much more flexibility than traditional options. Clients will receive a new Sensoscientific calibration probe. All they have to do is remove the old probe and replace it with the new one.

That’s it—recalibration: complete.

Our clients can choose to do this on an annual or biannual schedule. Whichever works best for them and their facility.

Keep Your Cool

Keeping your medications stored at the right temperature is an essential part of providing great healthcare to your patients. Pharmacy temperature monitoring is important, but it doesn’t have to monopolize all of your time and energy.

Let the pros at Sensoscientific help you. Contact us today, and let’s start the discussion about the temperature monitoring system that’s right for you. 

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