Keeping your medications safe

: A man sits up in bed to check a medication on his side table.

Proper storage and care can help keep your medication effective and prevent serious accidents

It’s hard to find a single household that doesn’t have a least one prescription medication, over-the-counter (OTC) medication, vitamin, or supplement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 46% of the U.S. population takes at least one prescription medication in any given month. 1

Any medication, including vitamins and supplements, can cause harm if taken incorrectly or by the wrong person.

Medication can also degrade and become less effective over time or when stored incorrectly, which can lead to health issues.

Medication safety is critical to preventing adverse drug events, overdoses, and potentially fatal outcomes. To help keep you and your loved ones safe, here are some tips for how to best care for and store your medications.

Store your medications properly

Things like heat, cold, light, and moisture can damage your medication, decreasing its potency and potentially making you sick.

That’s why it’s so important to store your medications properly, and in accordance with the storage instructions listed on your medication label.

The best way to ensure your medication stays fresh and effective is to store it in a cool, dark place — not your bathroom medicine cabinet as that can expose your medication to varying temperatures and humidity.

Keep your medication in its original container and don’t mix with any other medication. Also, don’t forget to remove that cotton inside your medication after you open it. Cotton can absorb moisture and negatively affect your medication.

If your medication smells different, is stuck together, appears harder or softer than normal, is cracked or chipped, or if you notice changes in color or texture, stop taking it right away and reach out to your pharmacy to get a replacement supply.

Put your medication up and away

Placing all your medications — this includes prescription, OTC, vitamins, and supplements— in a secure location that is up, away, and out of sight, is the best way to prevent medication misuse or accidental poisonings.

Never leave medication in a coat pocket or purse (child-resistant packaging isn’t foolproof), and never leave loose pills or liquid medication unattended. Curious kids will put just about anything in their mouths and it takes mere seconds for them to take your medication without you even knowing.

Placing your medication in a secure location can also prevent medication misuse, which is when someone intentionally uses a medication in a way that’s not prescribed or in a higher dosage than directed.

Additionally, keep medication that requires refrigeration separate from other foods items, and separate oral medications from creams and ointments.

If you ever suspect a poisoning, contact Poison Control right away online or by calling 800.222.1222.

Check the expiration date

All medications have expiration dates and expired medication may be less effective and possibly put your health at risk. Typically, capsules and tablets have a longer shelf life than liquids, ointments, and creams. Make it part of your medication routine to check the expiration date for all of your medications on a regular basis and dispose of unused or expired medications properly.

Travel safely with medications

Whether you’re driving or flying, keep medications out of extreme temperatures, direct sunlight, and moisture. Pack temperature-sensitive medications in your carry-on or in the cabin of your car. Pack medications that require refrigeration, such as insulin or an EpiPen®, in an insulated travel case. You can get additional tips for safely traveling with medications here.

How Express Scripts® Pharmacy can help

Keeping you safe and healthy is our number one priority. That’s why we offer 24/7 access to specially trained pharmacists who can answer all your questions and concerns about medication safety. It’s just one way that Express Scripts® Pharmacy is here for you.

Posted date: July 6, 2022


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Therapeutic Drug Use (accessed May 2022): cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-use-therapeutic.htm.

Related Articles