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Get your prescriptions by mail? Your medication could be at risk

We finally have some good news about the pandemic. An approved vaccine began distribution around the U.S. Monday, hopefully leading to life returning to normal soon. Of course, scammers are already taking advantage of this. Tap or click here to see four ways they’re out to get you.

As the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine make their way across the country, it has once again brought medicine storage into the general conversation. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine must be stored and transported at -94.00 °F to 50.00 °F, while Moderna’s vaccine must be kept at -4.00 °F.

If storage parameters go outside of those temperatures, efficacy of the vaccine is at serious risk. But if the vaccine needs to be transported in such strict conditions, what about your average, everyday medicine? You might be surprised, but your prescriptions to have guidelines on transportation and storage conditions.

Prescriptions and delivery logistics problems

As the holiday season gets in full swing, the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) detailed in a report that prescription medication delivered by mail might be at risk of incorrect transportation.

RELATED: CDC says to stockpile your meds – here’s tech to help

Having prescriptions delivered by mail is super convenient, but there are factors that you should consider.

“If a medication is stored improperly during the mailing process, and subsequently arrives to the patient altered, either chemically or physically, then patient safety could be at risk,” explained Karlee Paloukos, a pharmacy student at the University of Utah and researcher on the study.

Paloukos and ASHP urge that there is a need for increased regulations on the mail-order pharmacies sector. Tap or click here for money-saving tips on how to order prescriptions online.

During the study, the team collectively shipped 48 non-refrigerated packages to Baltimore, Chicago, Tucson, Palo Alto, Largo in Florida and Katy, Texas. Fitted with data loggers, every package at some point during the journey crossed the threshold of safe temperatures.

With freezing conditions already upon us, how are your meds delivered to you? If they are transported in a standard mail truck, that could be a bit of a problem.

Research found that during the winter, between 68% to 87% of the time, the packages were outside their recommended temperature ranges. During the summer, packages spent 27% to 54% outside safe ranges.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop ordering meds online and having them shipped to you. There are some steps and precautions that you can take.

RELATED: How to get your pharmaceutical drugs if you can’t go to the pharmacy

Don’t fret, as there are solutions

The first step would be to check the enclosed leaflet of your prescription meds and read up on the safe storage temperatures and tolerances. Most medicine should be stored at room temperature (between 68°F and 77 °F).

After checking the leaflet, talk to your pharmacy about shipping conditions if you have any concerns. If you are still unsure, the shipping or delivery company can also provide you with information.

Many delivery services use specialized trucks when it’s explicitly stated that medicine is being transported. The whole truck might not be temperature-controlled, but there should be at least a small area or container that is monitored.

Pharmacies are doing their part

Walgreens is a popular choice for ordering prescription medication, and it does offer Express next-day delivery.

But as stated on its website, not all meds qualify for next-day service, and specifically mention “temperature-controlled prescriptions” and “medications that require refrigeration.” It’s not detailed how those are delivered, but it would imply that measures are in place.

Walmart’s pharmacy is another retailer that ships medicine in temperature-controlled containers. It states that for orders containing refrigerated medications, “our policy is to ship them via Express delivery, packaged with a cold gel pack.”

RELATED: Amazon wants to be your new online pharmacy – and Prime members can save up to 80%

Those are just two examples of companies taking pro-active steps in keeping you and your medicine safe.

There is no need to panic or second-guess your choice of pharmacy. But if you haven’t given medicine storage or transportation a thought, maybe now is the perfect time to do so.

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