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How Temperature Can Affect Medication Stability

Joe Dickman | February 11th, 2020

One of the most important facets of healthcare is the administration of medications to people who need them. For this reason, preserving them so they are effective is very important. All medicines contain substances that are sensitive to certain conditions, one of which is temperature. If you would like to learn how temperature can affect medication stability, read our guide on the subject.

Chemical Stability at Risk

Medications contain various chemicals that, when combined into a capsule, liquid, or another form, interact with the human body and fend off sickness and dysfunction. These chemicals are effective when they enter the body, but they are typically not chemically stable enough to last long periods even in the best conditions. Extreme temperatures affect medication stability as well. In extreme heat, medicines begin to break down. Then, impurities form that compromise the medication’s potency, or ability to treat someone. On top of this, impurities could potentially harm the person who uses the meds. Extreme cold also causes medicine proteins to degrade. For example, insulin and vaccines that are frozen during storage lose their effectiveness and may be unusable.

Physical Changes

There are some physical markers for medication degradation, some of which are unpleasant. As chemical changes take place, meds can change the color, texture, and even develop a foul odor or taste. If your medicine tastes off, it’s possible that it encountered extreme heat or cold at some point in its preparation and delivery. If it takes on a liquid form, medicines’ viscosity could change, belying its chemical break down and loss of potency.

Transportation Recommendations

Temperature can affect medication stability, but what are some ways to ensure medications retain effectiveness and help people as they should? The World Health Organization recommends those transporting pharmaceuticals store them in well-ventilated spaces without odors or light. Also, the vehicle’s internal humidity should be less than 60% and the temperature precisely maintained according to meds’ various requirements. It’s not uncommon to store medications at around 5 degrees Celsius—just above freezing but cool enough to avoid heat.

The most reliable way to keep medications cool is to use insulated trucks equipped with precise refrigeration technology when shipping the product. Emerald Transportation Solutions offers many different vehicles that can help preserve medications and maintain their potency.

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What does under DOT mean?

Questions regarding DOT requirements come up often. 10,000 lbs GVW (gross vehicle weight) and over are commercial vehicles that fall under the Department of Transportation regulatory requirements.

What is the difference between GVW and payload?

GVW or Gross Vehicle Weight is the entire weight of the vehicle including the payload. The payload weight represents the amount of cargo you are hauling.

What is a self-powered unit and a vehicle-powered unit?

A self-powered unit has its own fuel source and will run independent of the truck. This is the heaviest and most expensive option. While vehicle-powered units run off the engine via a compressor mounted on the engine. These are less expensive and lighter in weight but you must run the truck or plug the electric standby into shore power.

What does K-factor mean and why is that important?

K-factor is a term that stands for the overall insulating value of the container (truck body). Quite simply the lower the K-factor the better the truck body will be able to maintain a given temperature and require less energy to do so.

How much lighter is a Poly Van vs a US spec body?

Poly Van bodies are very light. On average we estimate we are 75-150 lbs per foot lighter than a traditional sheet and post foamed in place body. These weight savings translates to less fuel burn and less CO2 emissions, along with added payload, the most important benefit.

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