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Times of India
09 April 2010
By Vivek Narayanan
Chennai, India

Med Stores Sluggish In Adhering To Strict Storage Conditions
Premature Death for Drugs Kept in the Open
The medicine you pop into your mouth might not be spurious and could be well within the date of expiry but yet may be ineffective. Reason? Most pharmacies in Tamil Nadu have poor storage conditions that could kill the efficacy of the drugs. Pharmaceutical experts say this is a more serious problem than spurious drugs.

They caution that a patient may take a large number of ineffective drugs to cure a disease, leading to drug abuse.

Indian Pharmacopoeia, the sole authority for all prescriptions and over–thecounter medicines sold or manufactured in India, prescribes specific storage conditions for every formulation. Experts say if this is not followed the medicines will die well before the day of expiry. Their potency, stability, efficacy and shelf–life are directly related to storage conditions. Schedule P of the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules deals with the potency period of drugs in direct relation to storage conditions specified by Indian Pharmacopeia.

Some of the common medicines that are have to be stored in a room temperature of below 25 degrees Celsius are Ampicillin, Amoxycyllin, Cephalexin, Chloromphenicol, Cloxaci llin, Doxycycline, Erythromycin, Refampicin, all pencillin drugs, Tetracyclin and Gentamycin. These are commonly used broad spectrum antibiotics for respiratory diseases.

All vaccines should be stored in temperatures ranging from 2 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius and injections should be stored at a slightly higher temperature. “Many pharmacies are not airconditioned and so many medicines are exposed to heat and sunlight. Almost 70% of the medicines in several medical outlets can be inefficient,” said a source in the pharmaceutical industry.

There are nearly 200 stockists and over 4,000 pharmacies in Chennai city alone. To get their drug licences renewed, pharmacies must show that they store medicines in a cool temperature. “Most pharmacies store drugs in a refrigerator freezer. This is also dangerous as some medicines, especially vaccines, cannot tolerate temperature below 2 degrees Celsius. Moreover nothing other than medicines should be kept in a fridge but one often finds confectionery in it. Accumulation of ice should also be prevented.

Sometimes the refrigerator is switched off at closing time and this could have an impact on storage of insulin,” said the source. Normally, he said, a stockist should have at least 200 sqft of cold and cool storage area for medicines and the room temperature should be kept below 25 degrees Celsius to prevent medicines from getting spoilt. But most pharmacies do not follow this and the quality of medicines is at stake.

However, the entry of chain medical retail outlets has increased competition and many pharmacies are now airconditioned. Speaking about the benefits of an airconditioned room, P Muthukumar, in–charge of Apollo pharmacy on R K Mutt Road in Mandaveli, said it prevented medicines from getting spoilt. “More than the medicines, it is the vaccines and injections that need to be stored in a cool temperature. Insulin injections if not stored properly can have adverse effect. We at Apollo ensure that our pharmacies are airconditioned and no eatables are stored in the refrigerator along with the medicines,” he said.

“We have set up a company called the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Allied Distributors Alliance Ltd. This would provide accreditation to pharmacies. If any member retail outlet is not airconditioned we will help it install the cooling equipment. Our body will ensure that all the shops, distributors and stockists follow the rules properly,” said R Srinivasan, director of the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Allied Distributors Alliance.

Director of Drugs Control M Bhaskaran said the department ensured that every drug store preserved medicines at the right temperature. “If not we initiate action. Recently, action was taken against a drug store in Perungudi for not storing medicines properly,” he said.

The Bitter Pills
Drug store not a bakery
Don’t let drugs double up with confectionery in the refrigerator

Taking out the punch
Efficacy and shelf life of medicines can suffer a
premature death if their storage specifications are violated

Look out for sweat beads
Most antibiotics need to be stored below 25 degrees Celsius and vaccines between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius Warning Don’t overdo the freezing part as it could kill vaccines. Use a customized
refrigerator to store drugs or make sure to defrost the freezer regularly

Maintain cool
In oven–like Chennai, 70% of the drugs in a medical outlet are most possibly dud. Reason: Most of them are not stored in an airconditioned room and are exposed to sunlight

Help at hand
Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association says it will fund its members to set up cooling equipment if they don’t have one

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