Be medicinewise in the heat: Advice from NPS Medicines Line

17 January 2014

Some medicines lose their effectiveness when they’re stored above a certain temperature, so as another heatwave sweeps the country, independent organisation NPS MedicineWise is reminding people to be aware of how to store and transport their medicines.

“In general, medicines should be stored away from heat, moisture and sunlight, but to make this a little more complicated, they shouldn’t be stored in the fridge either unless the label says so,” says Sarah Spagnardi, pharmacist and manager of NPS Medicines Line.

“Most medicines should be stored below 25°C or 30°C. Don’t leave them in a warm place, such as above the stove or in front of a west-facing window, and definitely not on the car dashboard,” she says.

“It’s important because the heat could change the effectiveness of the medicine, and some medicines can change their form and become difficult to use if they become too hot. Gelatin capsules may soften and stick together, ointments and creams may become runny, and suppositories may melt.”

People are encouraged to read the medicine label or the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for storage instructions, talk to their pharmacist if they have any questions, or phone NPS Medicines Line.

“Many liquid medicines and injection vials should be stored in the fridge, but store them in the fridge only if the label says so,” says Ms Spagnardi.

“The fridge means the main compartment of the fridge, not the freezer. If the medicines accidentally freeze, check with a pharmacist before using them to make sure they are still usable.

“If you’re on the go, consider taking with you only what you need for the day, and leave the remainder at home. Medicines normally kept in the fridge can be put in a small esky or insulated lunchbox, which will help keep them as cool and dry as possible. A frozen cold pack may reduce the temperature of the medicine to below its recommended storage temperature, or freeze the medicine, so these aren’t actually recommended.

“One more safety tip: if you’re moving medicines out of their normal safe storage place, do remember to keep them out of reach of any children in your care,” she says.

Key points for keeping your cool when it comes to medicines:

  • Store medicines away from heat, moisture and sunlight
  • Don’t store medicines in the fridge unless the label says so
  • Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) . Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

If you are a journalist seeking comment on a story or more information on any of our programs or campaigns please contact one of our media advisers: Stephanie Childs on 02 8217 8667 or Erin Jardine on 02 8217 8733 (during office hours) or call the NPS MedicineWise media phone on 0419 618 365 (for urgent media requests outside of office hours). If your enquiry is not urgent you can also send us an email.