Bad Weather and Your Mail Order Medications: Are They Still Safe To Take?
Let's say it's a cool -10 degrees outside today. Your mail man just dropped a box of medications off at your mailbox or front door. The bottles are very cold when you open up the package. Is it still safe to use in this situation?
One of the biggest debates in pharmacy today is over mail order pharmacy. There has been a silent war going on between community pharmacies and the large pharmacy benefit managers who process insurance for the last decade. These large companies often require their patients to receive their medications through their own mail order pharmacies, touting the cost savings and benefit to patients and their insurance companies.
While many people enjoy the convenience of not having to go to the local pharmacy to pick up their medications, there are some serious issues that are in question regarding mail order pharmacies and how they handle medications.
Most medications have to be kept and stored at a certain temperature to avoid degrading the medication and decreasing its effect. While tablets and capsules typically are stored at room temperature, extreme cold and heat during the shipment from the mail order pharmacy to your mail box may create issues with your medications. Other important medications, such as insulin for diabetic patients, must be kept cold. During the hot summer months when temperatures reach well above 90 degrees, the medication may be exposed to even warmer temperatures during transit. While a slight degradation in some medications may not be a big deal to the company, it might be to someone who is taking Warfarin(common blood thinner), Levothyroxine (thyroid medication), Digoxin (heart rate control medication), etc. where a slight decrease in potency translates into a big effect in how the patient’s body.
These are important considerations to make when deciding whether to use a mail order pharmacy or your local pharmacy. While the insurance company may give you a slight discount, can they guarantee the integrity of your medication like your local pharmacy? Do they use abusive practices to try to make more money off of Medicare prescriptions? Do they do anything to help your community like your pharmacy does?
So the next time it’s above or below room temperature outside, it could be taking a toll on your medications and ultimately your health!
Your Family Pharmacist,
Samuel Warnell, Pharm D