Medicine should be kept properly away from sunlight, heat and humidity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said, reminding the public that some drugs, especially in the heat and humidity of summer, can deteriorate quickly and become toxic.
Far Eastern Memorial Hospital pharmaceutical department director Sun Shu-hui (孫淑慧) said that prescription or over-the-counter medicine might change color or show other signs of deterioration before the expiration date on the box because it has not been properly stored — for example, bottle caps have not been tightened properly or the medicine has been kept in a damp place.
Sun cited as an example the case of a person with heart disease who found that the medication for treating his heart condition — nitroglycerin — had decomposed into a powdery substance.
“Drugs should be kept away from sunlight, moisture and heat to prevent them becoming damp, deteriorating or undergoing chemical changes,” she said.
Studies have shown that summer is the season that drugs are most likely to deteriorate due to the hot and humid temperatures in Taiwan, Sun said, adding that if people found that their medicine had changed in color or composition, they should not take it.
“Drugs should be kept safely out of childrens’ reach at all times to prevent children from accidentally ingesting them,” she added.
“They should be kept in their original packages, alongside the prescription medicine bag and the drug instruction sheet,” she said.
Sun added that “not all drugs need to be stored in the refrigerator — only some particular drugs, such as insulin or certain types of eye drops and suppositories.”
“Most drugs can be kept at room temperature,” she said.
Keeping medicine unnecessarily in the refrigerator might expose it to the risk of damage by moisture or of children accidentally consuming it, Sun said.
FDA section chief Huang Chyn-liang (黃琴喨) said people should take drugs according to their doctor’s instructions, not share them with other people or keep unused prescriptions for the next time they fall sick.
Drugs should not be disposed of in the sink or toilet, but collected in ziplock-type bags along with other household waste, such as used tea leaves, coffee grounds or napkins, and thrown away as general waste.
However, certain types of drugs, including anti-tumor drugs, chemotherapy medication and certain types of antibiotics and hormonal drugs, should be brought to hospitals for proper disposal, she said.
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