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Medication Refrigerator Temperature Guidelines: What You Should Know

  • by Kevin Driggers
  • Dec 18, 2019, 10:27 AM

Pharmacies work with a wide variety of medications. Some of these medications call for cold storage in a temperature controlled unit specifically designed for temperature stability. Read on for more information about cold storage of medications.


Why do I need a medication refrigerator? Wouldn't a household or dormitory-style refrigerator accomplish the same task?

Household and dormitory-style refrigerators do not provide the stable temperatures needed for the safe storage of certain medications and vaccines. This type of unit is prone to freezing the contents. Medications and vaccines that are frozen lose their potency. Medication refrigerators are specifically designed to maintain the proper temperature.


What is the correct temperature for a medication fridge?

A medication fridge should provide a stable temperature of between 36 and 46 degrees F. A good rule of thumb is to set your medication refrigerator at the middle point between the minimum and maximum storage temperature to allow for a proper storage temperature even with small fluctuations due to the door being opened during the day.


Why is it important to maintain proper temperature in the laboratory refrigerator?

Maintaining a proper temperature in a laboratory refrigerator is crucial to maintaining the cold chain for temperature-sensitive medications. Many medications -- such as insulin, antibiotics, eye drops, some topical creams -- as well as vaccines require storage at a precise temperature to avoid changes to potency that could place your clients at risk or cause them to need re-vaccination. Medications that require cold storage will expire quickly at room temperature, rendering them toxic or less effective.


What is the acceptable temperature range for a freezer?

The acceptable temperature range for a medical freezer is between -58 to 5 degrees F.


What is cold chain?

Cold chain is the supply chain required for the effective management of medications and vaccines that required cold storage. The cold chain supply begins with the manufacturer's process for the safe production of temperature-controlled medication. The cold temperature is then maintained in transport to the distributor and then to the pharmacy where cold-storage items are administered to patients. Various procedures are required in each step to ensure the stability of the temperatures at which the medications are kept. 


How can temperature loss be avoided during power outages?

All pharmacies should develop emergency preparedness plans that include protocols for dealing with temperature-controlled goods in the event of power loss. At the very least, if power is lost and a back up unit or a generator is not available to quickly deal with the situation, the door of the medication refrigerator or freezer should remain closed during a brief power loss. If a back up unit is available, quickly and safely transfer medications in small batches to avoid temperature loss due to holding the door open while retrieving all medications in the unit.


What size medication refrigerator do I need and how does this affect the ability to control the unit's temperature?

The size of medication refrigerator you need is determined by the space you have allotted for the unit and the amount of medication you're storing. There should be plenty of space inside the unit to avoid stacking medications and to allow space for proper air circulation. There should be space around the external area of the unit to ensure proper ventilation. Air circulation and unit ventilation are both factors in controlling the temperature of your unit.


Where should medications be stored?

It depends on the type of medication. Some medications must be frozen to 5 degrees F or lower, some should be refrigerated at between 36 and 46 degrees F, and some do not need cold storage at all but simply should be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.


How can I maintain a consistent temperature in the medication refrigerator?

There are some very simple actions that can help keep stable temperatures within a medication refrigerator. One of these actions is to avoid overcrowding the contents of the refrigerator, which can prevent air circulation. Another tip is to avoid holding the door of the unit open for longer than required to retrieve or place products in the refrigerator. The open door causes warm air to enter the unit. Medications should be stored in the center of the refrigerator, away from the bottoms and sides. Never store medications in door shelves or bins as these areas are prone to larger fluctuations in temperature.


If you find that your refrigerator or freezer unit is struggling to maintain a stable temperature or is requiring defrosting procedures to remove ice build up, check your gasket seal to ensure that it is functioning properly and is not causing room temperature air to flow into the unit. 


How often should I monitor the temperature of the medication refrigerator?

Many new medical refrigerator units such as those provided by American Biotech Supply feature state-of-the-art temperature monitoring systems to consistently track the temperature and to alert you if there is a fluctuation. You can attain further peace of mind with an independent temperature monitoring device that should be checked at least twice daily.


What is the difference in glass door models and solid door models when it comes to controlling the temperature of a medical refrigerator?

Glass door models provide protection against temperature fluctuations from repeated opening and closing of the refrigerator by allowing pharmacy staff to see the products they need to retrieve from the refrigerator without holding the door open while they look. However, glass doors tend to slip more quickly out of acceptable temperature range in the case of power failure. Solid doors provided consistent temperature control for up to two hours of power loss provided the door remains closed and sealed. 


Is a combination refrigerator/ freezer unit acceptable for the storage of medications?

While there are medical-grade combination units available for medication storage, most pharmacies use stand alone units as these provide superior temperature control.


What Features Do ABS pharmacy refrigerators offer that help with temperature monitoring and control?

Our premier pharmacy units provide features such as:


  • Digital microprocessor

  • Digital temperature display

  • Audible and visual temperature alarms

  • Resettable minimum and maximum temperature 

  • Remote alarm contacts

  • A power failure alarm, available in some units

ABS pharmacy units provide the superior temperature control and powerful, yet simple to use monitoring features. Trust us for your next refrigerator purchase.


Please contact us to discuss the best possible solutions for your refrigeration requirements and needs

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