U of U Study: Prescription drugs delivered by mail may be harmed in transit

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – We’re getting everything delivered these days, and that includes prescription medications. But a University of Utah study found delivery may expose your medications to temperatures that make them less effective or even harmful. 

Karlee Paloukos is one of the students behind the study; she says she was working in a pharmacy when a man called to ask if his medication was still safe to take after being outside for a number of days in the Utah heat. Paloukos called the manufacturer and eventually, the man was told not to take the risk and to get a new prescription. 

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Neither the drug maker nor delivery service would pay for the spoiled drug, and the event left Paloukos asking, who would be responsible for chemical changes that might have been harmful to the man? 

Paloukos wondered, “What are the ramifications of having a medication exposed to a temperature it’s not been studied at?”

So, her team decided to put the delivery system to the test and see how often medications are exposed to temperatures in the safe range. 

Paloukos says, “We essentially put a temperature tracker in a bubble padded envelope,” and they sent them all over the country; “Really all of our data was significant for falling outside of range.”

Their study found that medications spent longer outside of the safe range in the winter and that the distance a package had to travel really had no impact on if or how long it was out of the safe range.  Paloukos explained, “Let’s say your package was at 80 degrees for 10 hours, that could be more damaging and impactful than if it spent 5 minutes at 100 degrees.”

The effect of that temperature exposure depends on the medications. For some, it might mean the drug just won’t be as effective, others might pick up harmful qualities. 

And who’s responsible for keeping the consumer safe from those changes? Paloukos says, “It should be the manufacturer’s responsibility however, who regulates that is unclear; is that the FDA, the Board of Pharmacy for the state?”

Paloukos and her team hope to publish and expand their research soon. 

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