CVS In Pennsylvania Keeps Pharmacy Supplies At Toasty 93 Degrees

A CVS in Cressona, PA has had chronic air conditioning problems “for over a year and a half now” according to the employee our tipster spoke with. Now Frank wants to know whether or not it’s safe to store so much medicine in such intense heat. It certainly goes against the storage instructions for a lot of meds.

Frank writes,

The other day I went to pick up my prescriptions at my local CVS #1323 in Cressona Pa. The weather outside was about 97 and very humid. I looked forward to going inside in hopes of cooling down a little bit.

I got inside the mall which was nice and cool. When I got into CVS I was hit with nothing but heat. As I made my way back to the pharmacy I could swear it was getting hotter and hotter.

I got to the pharmacy counter and noticed all the employees had thier usual labcoat attire off and they were sweaty. I took a glance at the digital thermometer they had there and couldn’t believe my eyes. The thermometer said it was almost 93 in there!!! 93!!

That brought some questions to mind which I relayed to the pharmacy staff. How are all the medications stored back there still good after being kept in those kind of temps? How long exactly has the AC been broken and why hasn’t it been fixed yet?

I didn’t get many answers. The only thing I got was the following, “The AC has been broken for over a year and a half now. CVS is too cheap to buy an air conditioning system. It is like this every year and they don’t care!!” That was told to me by a sweaty employee, which brings another question to mind. How safe is it exactly to have human sweat dripping on the overheated medication they are dispensing?

After seeing that and losing about 10 lbs in the process from sweating, I asked to have my prescription transferred to another pharmacy. I hope this little bit of info comes in handy. I am sure others around my area would like to know how their meds are stored and what the people have to work in that are handling their meds.

We doubt the sweat is that dangerous, but it’s certainly gross to imagine a big fat salty drop of brow sweat falling into a pill bottle right as the cap’s being screwed on.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. timmus says:

    I asked to have my prescription transferred to another pharmacy.

    Another CVS?

  2. apotheosis says:

    the nitroglycerine products are probably sweating dynamite by now.

  3. Dagamon says:

    All drug manufacturers must to stability testing mandated by the FDA. The expiration dates on the drugs are based on them being stored within certain parameters, so if they are over heated, they may expire before the date marked on the package.

  4. B says:

    Prescriptions that need to be kept cool are stored in a fridge, assuming that’s not broken too. And I’m pretty sure a little sweat’s not going to kill anybody. However, I do believe that high temperatures are an OSHA violation.

  5. ryan_h says:

    Remember what Quiznos’s marketing department has taught us, toasted is better!!!!

  6. longbeachcoupe says:

    i wouldnt take anything i NEEDED to live that was in that enviornment… think of all the birth control pills they have sitting there… and no one will know X months from now that it was CVS whos responsible for “the accident”

  7. Grabraham says:

    “Storing your medications in the correct environmental conditions ensures that they will stay in the best condition to keep working well for you. Some medications need to be refrigerated, while others should be protected from light. Tablets and capsules are best kept in a cool dry place (not in the heat and moisture of a bathroom medicine cabinet, for example). Never carry your medications in your pocket, where your body heat can damage them. Your pharmacist can help you determine the best storage conditions for your medications.”
    Thanks for the helpful tip CVS!!!

    I don’t know how to post URLS but this is from the “Ask the Pharmacist” section of their website.

  8. Most drugs expiration date is usually a year into the future, so any drugs you get like a 90 day supply will be fine. Also, drugs don’t go “bad”, they just start to lose their potency. I think the slight rate at which this happens should not matter to any prescription that isn’t metered to a certain Mg.

    Finally, I think the employees were over-exaggerating. If it had been bad for over a year, than last years North East heat would have killed the employees, and it would have adversely affected the temps of the surrounding stores, which would have brought some action.

  9. mike says:

    Why in the world would they not fix the A/C in there for a year? Isn’t that the mall’s responsibility?

  10. Phexerian says:

    This is common at CVS and many pharmacies that I have worked at. Not to this extreme, but it can get pretty bad. Every pharmacy I have worked at in a retail setting, always has the temperature right at about 80 degrees. Of course, upper level management will tell you they don’t want it above 82 degrees because you will get drug degradation. However, if you are a pharmacy employee and just about running from one end of the pharmacy to the other, you get pretty damn hot as an employee.

    I am sure the employees have complained about it left and right, but the district pharmacy manager won’t do anything about it because that would take money out of his budget for the year which would cut down on his bonus check at the end of the year. That is how CVS is run generally; not to make money by creating loyal customers but by holding on to as much of it as possible even at the cost of customers.

    If you were really inclined to deal with this situation, I would suggest..
    1) write a complaint to your state board of pharmacy, as they have some regulations as to temperature controls which vary from state to state
    2) write a complaint to the district pharmacy manager, which may not help
    3) write a letter of complaint to OSHA, stating the unsafe work environment for the employees.
    4) write a letter of complaint to the BBB, stating that they are selling drugs that have been degraded because of the excessive heat
    5) write a letter to your state department of health and state the problems with the degraded drugs. They oversee pharmacy regulations as well.

    If the pharmacist was smart, they will have documented every time they has asked for the air conditioner to be fixed so as not to get in trouble with the board. That way the heat goes onto the district manager.

    It should be understood that some drugs can degrade somewhat more quickly than others and when some of those drugs do they change color (primarily some liquids in bottles). One example would be an epinephrine injection.

    So let’s say now that the pharmacy has actually been this way for over a year. In the back of the pharmacy, is a box of Epi-Pen which is an epinephrine injection that is used for anaphylaxis shock. So, you get your medication for an emergency. The next week, you are stung by a bee, and you monitor yourself, and you notice you start to get into shock. You quickly give yourself the epi-pen injection or someone with you administers it, but wait…. guess what… the drug has turned a pinkish brown from degradation and no longer works. Turns out you are going to go into shock after all, and your chances of dieing have just greatly increased.

    See the problem?

    -Phex
    -3rd Year PharmD/MBA Candidate

  11. Orv says:

    @apotheosis: You’ve got it backwards. Old dynamite “sweats” nitroglycerine.

  12. lauy says:

    In college I worked at Osco Drug here in Arizona. One year, I recall in early May, the AC in the store went out. Fighting between the landlord and my employer ensued, supposedly, about who was responsible for the repairs. Then we were told the AC unit was so old it was going to take several more months for parts. Anyone who knows the summer temperatures we get to here in AZ, well…needless to say, it took several thousand dollars worth of lost prescription medication before they got some portable ACs for the pharmacy. None for the rest of us in the store, though…the misery went on until the end of September. We lost the entire inventory of Halloween candy (received in July) and thousands of dollars of other merchandise I can’t even recall.

    My advice to anyone who enters a retail store that is sweltering – turn around and walk out. Not only is it evident they have no regard for their employees, but consumption or use of any product you purchase may be hazardous to your health!

  13. BoomerFive says:

    @lauy: Couldn’t have said it better.

  14. baristabrawl says:

    I gave up on CVS a while back. They’re getting to be like Starbucks. They’re just everywhere. They’re growing too fast and they don’t have enough employees to get what they need taken care of taken care of.

    I had a prescription that I needed refilled, only there were no refills left, so you do that “Press one for us to fax a request to your doctor.” The pharmacy kept saying that I needed to call my doctor and the doctor kept saying that I needed to call the pharmacy. This went on for 6 days. I finally changed physician’s, too.

    At any rate, I don’t utilize CVS anymore.

  15. Pennsylvanian123 says:

    @Git Em SteveDave’s G3 hearts a certain MBP: I was told by a pharmacy employee that expired tetracyclene can kill you, so there may be at least one drug that does “go bad”. Just passing that along…

  16. TedSez says:

    According to an article in a publication for emergency medical technicians, medications labeled for storage at a “controlled room temperature” shouldn’t be allowed to go above a long-term exposure of 77 degrees Fahrenheit or an occasional exposure of 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The evidence: “Seven studies published between 1989 and 2004 covered the effects of temperature exposures on medication stability…. Five of those studies found significant degradation of the medications they studied; two did not. Of course, it’s not an all-or-nothing situation. Many of the studies examined more than one medication, and some of those medications degraded while others didn’t. So, no, the temperature exposures are not affecting all of the EMS medications, but they do affect some of the medications.”

    [www.fireengineering.com]

  17. catnapped says:

    Maybe the mall is waiting for CVS lease to run out (especially if they’re paying below market rent) before they fix anything.

  18. “expired tetracyclene”
    @Pennsylvanian123: I read up on it, and yes, it can lead to a skin condition which can kill you. But you only take antibiotics for usually 10-14 days, so unless they dispensed the drugs to you past expiration, that shouldn’t matter much as they don’t hang around that long. Unless you’re the idiot who doesn’t take the full course and saves the unused pills. But they deserve it for not following the directions.

  19. dripdrop says:

    My birth control package says to store at room temperature (around 65-75 degrees I think). That is not something I would want to take my chances with!

  20. apotheosis says:

    @Orv:
    You seem like a smart fellow, Orv, but my information comes by way of field tests conducted by Wyle E. Coyote. I think we can all agree he’s an unimpeachable source on the subject.

  21. kerry says:

    Most drugs need to be stored at controlled room temperature, so even if you took your tetracycline as soon as you picked it up from the pharmacy, it could already be bad if it was stored incorrectly for an extended period of time, meaning that yeah, it could kill you after a 1-2 week course, since it had already “expired” before you took it due to poor storage conditions. Other drugs may just lose potency, but that’s bad news for people relying on their medications to stay alive.

  22. seismic007 says:

    The ONLY way you will make a mark on CVS is to file a WRITTEN complaint with your state Board of Pharmacy. Boards of Pharmacy are obligated by law to investigate and respond to written complaints. Verbal (telephonic) complaints may go by the wayside.

    State pharmacy laws prescribe the environmental conditions required to operate a pharmacy establishment. The Board of Pharmacy is always happy to ensure pharmacy are compliant–as long as you file a written complaint.

    (p.s. I’m a pharmacist)

  23. MBPharmD says:

    @seismic007: What he said. (another pharmacist here)

  24. Nighthawke says:

    @seismic007:
    Concur with seismic. The more written complaints (registered mail with signed confirmation!) the the bigger the chances they will turn their sights on the store in question.

    If someone gets sick or dies from altered medication bought at the overtemped pharm, the DA will have little choice but to go after the company as a whole.

  25. BrianU says:

    Did you notify the Pennsylvania Department of Health? [www.dsf.health.state.pa.us]
    Does the Schuylkill County Government have someone that can investigate this? Check the blue pages in your phone book. Lastly, did you inform the doctor that prescribed your medication? Their office should know what to do about it, and maybe warn you and others not to use refills from that pharmacy.

  26. Pinget says:

    So we’re all assuming the drugs are transported to the pharmacy on refrigerated semis? I would hope so, but maybe it’s not so.

  27. OdellCallidice says:

    Two days ago the heat index in Philadelphia was 107 degrees. The same thing
    was true at the CVS at 11th and South Street in Philly – NO A/C. I actually
    thought that the store should have been closed because it was so disgusting
    that they were making employees work in the store. Is it a store policy?

  28. drugdoc says:

    @Pinget:

    Drugs are generally not transported in refrigerated semis and neither are refrigerated items. That is common practice with every and all companies. Some refrigerated items are shipped in a styrofoam container with an ice pack which absolutely does nothing to keep them cool.

  29. LostMyMind says:

    @BrianU: Unfortunately, I doubt the local Schuylkill County government has anyone to investigate something of this magnitude. Best thing is to go to the state level and report this particular CVS.

    I know this area of Pennsylvania pretty well. I can tell you that the “Cressona Mall” has little concern over people’s safety either in stores or outside. They are redoing the outside of the mall and it a safety hazard with only chain-link fences blocking the work. You have to take your chances to enter the mall or outside stores since they have work going on and no barriers at the spot so you can easily walk into a work zone. Also, the parking lot is like a demo derby since they do not have any orange cones redirecting traffic while construction work is going on so you have to weave in and out of the work. This small mall is spending too much money on making the outside look good, they don’t care about their stores or shoppers.

    From what I heard, this particular CVS was actually flooded the other year in the back at the pharmacy. Luckily I get my prescriptions at another brand pharmacy in the area which never had their a/c or the store a/c go down.

  30. karmaghost says:

    Oh wow, I think I’ve actually been to that mall before. After seeing the condition it’s in, I wouldn’t be surprised if it really was a year and a half since the A/C broke.

    Switching to another pharmacy (even if it was still a CVS) is a wise decision. Now go cool down with an ice-cold local Yuengling brew. :)

  31. Uriel says:

    huh, i’m doubting there is anything remotely dangerous to the shelf life of these drugs. My cousin used to work for a doctor, and she’d send my grandfather expired meds all the time, and say that they just had to remove them because of the expiration date, but they were still fine to take.

  32. kerry says:

    @Uriel: There’s a big difference between expired as in “past the date” and expired as in “no longer effective.”

  33. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    the pharmaceutical company i work for replaces, for free, a SERIOUSLY expensive injectible med that we make if there’s any doubt as to whether the med has ever gone above 77 degrees. there haven’t been any formal tests on it, but post marketing reports from consumers indicate it isn’t good. basically, people call us, say their meds got really hot somehow [left on the toaster over, in a hot car, etc] and they were sick for days after taking it.