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How to store refrigerated medication during power outages

A number of medications, like insulin and some antibiotics, require refrigeration. When the power is out, that can be a huge problem for those who need it most.

AUSTIN, Texas — Widespread power outages are continuing this week in Central Texas, and that can have a major effect on people who rely on medications that require refrigeration. 

Whether it's medications for diabetes, like insulin or insulin pens, or topical creams and eye drops that need to be kept in the fridge, the recent outages can affect the longevity and effectiveness of medications people may need to survive. 

Rannon Ching, pharmacist-in-charge at Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin, said that if a medication goes through what is called a "drug excursion" or a "temperature excursion" – which means the medication has gone outside of the desired temperature range – patients should call the medicine's manufacturer to find out the best point of action.

"If you have questions like, you know, let's say that was the last thing on your mind, and then you realize 12 hours, 8 hours, two days later, 'My goodness, I didn't actually put my meds into a different refrigeration condition. What should I do with it?' The manufacturer would definitely be the best person to contact because they have, each specific data and information they have for their product," Ching said.

According to Ching, most of the time, manufacturers are the ones who have studies and data that shows what happens when their medication goes out of temperature range for a few hours, days or even weeks. 

If your power goes out, and you're trying to find back-up storage options for medications, never use dry ice to store medication, according to experts with Randall's Pharmacy. Instead, use a cooler packed with traditional ice and make sure the medication is in a water proof container like a zip-lock plastic bag.

Once the medication is in the cooler, ensure the medication does not touch the ice directly. Use a barrier like cardboard or other material placed in between the ice and the medication to protect it. 

"If someone has the medication and it wasn't stored properly and it went bad – you know, like milk or eggs, you can go out to the grocery store and get it again. A lot of times with these refrigerator medications, if they're are expensive or they're really hard to come by, I do recommend patients calling their insurance company because sometimes – not all the times, sometimes – they can get either a lost or damaged medication override. And that would allow the patients to refill their prescription and not have to pay out of pocket," Ching said.

If your medication is an expensive brand, calling your prescription's insurance company could be a good option to receive a replacement.

Officials say if you're without power, don't rely on your local pharmacy to be able to store your medication for you. The best option in that scenario is to find someone you know that can keep it in their fridge, store it in the fridge at work or keep it in insulated carriers or coolers. 

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