Protecting the cold chain

fridge cold chain medicines

The cost of replacing impaired medicines due to power outage averages $13,168 per pharmacy, while loss of vaccines alone amounts to $16 million per year in Australia

Power outages are unforeseen complications in pharmacy settings that can cause significant and widespread issues, say Australian pharmacy researchers.

One potential consequence is wastage of medicines as a result of degradation and loss of activity, due to exposure to increased temperatures – referred to as a cold-chain breach, according to the research article led by Dr Sam Kosari and PhD student E.J. Walker from the University of Canberra.

“Vaccines and other pharmaceuticals … require continuous storage at specific temperatures to maintain viability,” they write in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics.

As an example of the magnitude of medicine wastage due to power outages, a hospital and pharmacy in remote Western Australia experienced repeated power outages in early 2017, requiring them to discard thousands of dollars’ worth of medicines and vaccines.

This “was not only a costly exercise, but also left the town vulnerable to medicine or vaccine shortages,” say the authors.

“It has been estimated that loss of vaccines alone amounts to approximately $16 million per year in Australia, on top of the loss of other medicines, such as insulin, thyroxine and biologicals that also require cold storage but have not yet been quantified”.

Meanwhile contingency plans are widely recommended but there is limited research on whether these are effective or widely utilised.

According to an ACT pilot study, 22% of 18 community pharmacies surveyed reported not knowing of any specific backup procedure.

The cost of replacing impaired medicines varied between pharmacies, and if power outage had occurred, the average cost was estimated at $13,168.

There is a need for expanded studies to further clarify the extent of this issue and indicate how pharmacists can better protect against medicines loss in the future, the authors conclude.

See the full article here

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