How and why should we store veterinary medicinal products safely? - Veterinary Practice
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How and why should we store veterinary medicinal products safely?

Ryan Twiss, product marketing manager at LEC Medical, explains the importance of storing VMPs correctly to avoid medical waste and ensure medicine efficacy

The shortage of veterinary vaccines in 2021 brought the importance of ensuring no veterinary medicinal product (VMP) goes to waste into sharp focus. The record-breaking temperatures documented across the UK this summer have also highlighted the significance of storing VMPs correctly to prevent damage to vaccines and other heat-sensitive medicines.

Why is storing VMPs correctly important?

Minimising waste makes sense from a supply, customer service, cost and, most importantly, animal health perspective. This can be achieved with the right equipment and if robust practices are put in place.

Minimising waste makes sense from a supply, customer service, cost and, most importantly, animal health perspective

VMPs naturally biodegrade over time, and storing them outside their recommended temperature range may speed up this loss of potency. Some VMPs have their potency reduced at higher temperatures, while others are impacted by the cold. In the worst scenario, a vaccine may fail to create the desired immune response, thus not providing animals with the protection their owners are paying for.

Failure to store vaccines according to the manufacturers’ strict temperature requirements can invalidate the expiry date, which can cause manufacturers to disclaim responsibility for any apparent failure of the medicine, as the safety and effectiveness of such medicines can be significantly compromised or unknown.

Failure to store vaccines according to the manufacturers’ strict temperature requirements can invalidate the expiry date, which can cause manufacturers to disclaim responsibility for any apparent failure

Vaccine storage also falls under the scope of inspections carried out by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS) Practice Standards Scheme, and failure to store them safely can result in prosecution. Therefore, establishing a stable temperature is essential. The only guaranteed way to achieve this is by storing VMPs in refrigerators specifically designed for that purpose.

Effective VMP refrigeration

Standard domestic refrigerators cannot be used for storing cold chain products for several reasons, including an uneven temperature distribution as a result of minimal air circulation and a normal operating range between 0°C and 10°C. Medical fridges are designed to maintain an internal temperature between 2°C and 8°C. They also come with a variety of features to ensure they stay at that constant temperature. Ideally, they come with a temperature display that is accurate to a 0.1 decimal place and can be read without opening the refrigerator.

The refrigeration unit should be placed in a well-ventilated room maintained at a temperature between 10°C and 25°C. It should also be away from external windows and all heat sources, such as radiators or direct sunlight, and at least 5 to 10cm away from walls and other units.

With energy prices also hitting record highs, ongoing cost savings can be made by purchasing a medical fridge that incorporates R600a refrigerant, as these can use up to 45 percent less energy than many models.

Cost savings can be made by purchasing a medical fridge that incorporates R600a refrigerant, as these can use up to 45 percent less energy

The refrigerator used to store VMPs must also be of an appropriate size for the quantity of stock to be stored. For example, it should not be filled to more than 75 percent capacity to allow adequate air circulation. It should go without saying that the refrigerator must be reserved exclusively for the storage of vaccines and other pharmaceutical products, not used to store food, blood, milk, drink or anything else representing a contamination risk. 

To ensure ongoing effectiveness, any vaccine refrigeration unit must be serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It must also have its integral thermometer independently calibrated to ensure readings are true. Finally, the medical refrigerator must be cleaned regularly and the internal stock should be stored according to its first expiry.

Final thoughts

Finally, it is advisable to have named individuals responsible and accountable for the receipt and storage of vaccines and other heat-sensitive medicines, as well as monitoring and recording refrigerator and ambient room temperatures.

Exceptionally hot summers (and unseasonably warm winters) are predicted to become a more common occurrence due to climate change [and] the risk of a further pandemic disrupting supply chain cannot be ruled out

Exceptionally hot summers (and unseasonably warm winters) are predicted to become a more common occurrence due to climate change. Likewise, the risk of a further pandemic disrupting the supply chain cannot be ruled out. In light of this, it has arguably never been more important to embed good practice in daily practices and procedures to ensure not one batch of medicines is wasted.

Ryan Twiss

Ryan Twiss is consumer marketing manager – refrigeration for LEC Medical and its parent company, Glen Dimplex Consumer Appliances. After completing studies in marketing and business at Newcastle University in the UK and Stockholm University in Sweden, Ryan worked for major brand names including the retailer Argos, Philips domestic appliances and the Pernod drinks label.


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