Medication Storage Appropriateness in US Households

  • Olivia G. Funk Long Island University Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Royce Yung Shenandoah University
  • Scott Arrighi Larkin University College of Pharmacy
  • SuHak Lee University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy


Background/Objective(s): Many people in the United States (US) store medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, in their households. They may store medications in a designated location which could pose some convenience for the ease of use and access. However, most people may not know if their medications are stored properly to maintain stability and sterility. The objective of this study is to assess the medication storage locations in US households and evaluate appropriateness for each reported stored medication based on the published literature and drug information databases.

Methods: 195 US Qualtrics panel members completed the National Household Medication Survey about medications stored at home and the number of residents in the household. This survey was a cross-sectional, self-administered, online survey completed through Qualtrics. The reported medications and their corresponding storage locations were categorized based on their appropriateness with moisture/humidity, temperatures and accidental exposure to children. The number of medications stored appropriately per household was recorded based on published literature, Lexicomp, Nature Made and Nature’s Bounty were consulted.

Results: 154 (79%) households completed the survey. 75 (38.4%) households had at least one resident younger than 18 years old. 72 (46.8%) households stored at least one medication on a countertop. Only 28 (23.3%) households stored all their medications appropriately, while 92 (76.7%) households were storing at least one medication inappropriately. 34 (22%) households reported medications that were unidentifiable or no medications at all. 

457 medications were reported by the 154 households. 13 of the households did not store any medications at home. 162-164 (~35%) of the medications were stored appropriately. 52 to 54 (~11%) medications had a moisture/humidity issue, 77 to 79 (~17%) had a temperature issue, and 42 to 44 (~9%) medications had both issues. 23 (5%) medications had an issue with a potential risk for accidental exposure to children, 6 (1.3%) had issues with both risk for accidental exposure to children and moisture/humidity, 8 (1.8%) had issues with both risk for accidental exposure to children and temperature, and 4 (0.9%) medications shared all three issues. Some numbers are reported with a range because certain medications have different storage recommendations based on formulation, so if a formulation wasn’t specified, both storage recommendations were taken into consideration.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that many US households may be storing medications in inappropriate locations. In order to ensure medication stability and sterility and reduce the risk of accidental ingestion, pharmacists should proactively educate patients on proper storage of their medications and signs of degradation to avoid undesirable effects from the medications.


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Received 2021-03-05
Accepted 2021-04-26
Published 2021-05-05
Pharmacy Practice & Practice-Based Research