The big chill

When it comes to pharmacy refrigeration don’t find yourself out in the cold

It’s Diabetes Awareness month so with insulin, and other drugs such as vaccines, needing to be kept at specific temperatures, what better time to review your refrigeration needs? As Jeff Klückers, director at Shoreline Medical Refrigeration, points out the NHS Green Book 2013 clearly states: “Ordinary domestic refrigerators must not be used.”

The Green Book requires healthcare professionals to store products in accordance with the requirements specified by drug manufacturers and failure to do so is cited as a deficiency, which could have an impact on re-inspection intervals. (It is the responsibility of the pharmacy to demonstrate that the fridge it uses is able to store drugs at the correct temperature.)

So why is popping down to Curry’s and buying one such a bad idea? “Domestic or non-medical refrigerators do not offer a consistent internal temperature throughout,” maintains Klückers. “The internal temperature offered by a domestic refrigerator ranges from 0°C to + 10°C, and there is little stability or temperature control offered.”

Medical fridges, on the other hand, are manufactured to meet tight guidelines laid down for the storage of temperature sensitive drugs and offer storage at +2°C to +8°C at all times throughout the interior of the fridge. “This is achieved using an internal air-circulating fan – not found on nonmedical fridges,” he explains. “A medical fridge should have an audio/visual alarm to advise the user of any temperature deviation outside of the +2°C to + 8°C range.

“The digital temperature controller displays the current internal temperature of the fridge and remembers the maximum and minimum temperature extremes since its last reset.”

In addition, to protect valuable drugs, a medical fridge should also have a door lock as specified by the NHS Green Book. Klückers also highlights a further Green Book requirement: “At least one maximum-minimum thermometer that is independent of mains power should be used (as well as any integrated thermometer), so temperatures can be measured in the event of electricity loss.”

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WHAT SIZE FRIDGE DOES MY PHARMACY NEED?

To calculate your correct fridge size, consider the following:
• Public Health England recommends a maximum of 70% loading to allow for free circulation of air.
• What is the anticipated peak influx of drug stock?
• How much space is available in the pharmacy? For example, an under counter model may be more suitable.
• Where will it be sited? A medical fridge needs to be located away from a heat source, including windows, which may require modifications to pharmacy layout.
• Think about portable options, too. There are models available with full temperature control, which may prove useful during peak times.

[Source: Shoreline Medical Refrigeration]

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