Can You Leave Birth Control Pills In A Hot Room?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not birth control pills can safely be left in a hot room.

Question

I am on birth control pills. I have been storing my pills in a dark bedroom on a nightstand. I do not have AC and the weather has been in the 80s outside and I have had the window open for air. The pills have not been exposed to the sunlight what’s so ever. Could My pills be less effective?

Asked by Worried2 On Aug 29, 2019

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Aug 29, 2019
Birth Control Pills In Pack

Answer

We've answered a few questions on this topic recently, many of which can be found on our website:

Overall, it is unlikely that your birth control pills will be negatively affected in any significant way by being stored in a bedroom that is slightly above room temperature, which is defined as 68 to 77℉ (20-25℃). This isn't true for all drugs though.

For many, storing them at higher than recommended temperatures can be deleterious.

For example, storing insulin at high temperatures can cause a breakdown of the actual drug, making it significantly less effective and dangerous to use.

When it comes to most solid dosage forms, however (especially ones that are to be stored at room temperature), we are more concerned with the premature breakdown of the product form (e.g. capsules melting or tablets disintegrating more easily) than the degradation of the actual drug (e.g. the hormones contained in birth control pills).

Now, there isn't any evidence that storing birth control pills in a room that is around 86℉ (within the excursion range) makes them less effective.

Higher temperatures may make the tablets more likely to crumble, or break apart, so be sure you are taking a full, intact tablet to ensure you are receiving your full dose.

Also, the fact that you are storing them out of direct sunlight is good, since direct sunlight (as well as temperature) can accelerate drug degradation.

Although (as mentioned) it is quite unlikely that there is any actual drug degradation at the temperatures you've specified, it is important to look for signs you may be getting less than a full dose. For birth control pills, this may include symptoms of spotting or breakthrough bleeding.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it would be prudent to get a replacement pack.

The next section discusses storage conditions in more detail and why slightly higher temperatures aren't likely a big concern in your situation.


Most birth control pills are recommended to be stored between 68 to 77℉ (20-25℃).

Temperature excursions (i.e. temporary storage conditions due to transport, etc...) are allowed within the temperature range of 59-86℉ (15-30℃)

For example, the following is the storage recommendation for the popular birth control pill, Yaz:

Yaz Prescribing Information Storage

Recommended storage conditions are in place for a very important reason...to avoid the premature deterioration (i.e. breakdown) of the product and/or active drug component (e.g. the hormones contained in birth control pills).

The assigned temperature range of any given drug is based on stability studies.

Storing birth control pills out of this range could potentially cause:

  • A loss in drug stability (of the drug or dosage form)
  • A loss of potency
  • A decrease in drug integrity
  • Discoloration

In your situation, storing pills in a hot bedroom likely wouldn't cause any appreciable drug degradation, especially if you aren't storing them for months at a time.

Unfortunately, if the temperature exceeds 86℉, that's when things get a little more unpredictable as there are a lack of studies that have explored this situation.

However, one particularly interesting study, published in the journal American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, examined how spaceflight affected the potency of numerous medications (including two hormones used in birth control pills, norethindrone and Ethinyl estradiol).

The conditions these drugs were under were fairly extreme and included higher than average levels of radiation and, in many cases, temperatures exceeding 25℃ (86℉).

The findings of the study were quite interesting. After over 300 days in these conditions, some drugs failed their potency assays but norethindrone and Ethinyl estradiol each retained over 97% of their original potency (as shown in the below chart):

Ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone stability in extreme conditions chart

Source: AAPS J. 2011 Jun; 13(2): 299–308.

Even looking at many of the drugs that failed their potency assays, they often still contained over 90% of their original potency, even after being in space for over 300 days at high temperatures!

I know this is an extreme example, but it does a good job of illustrating that your birth control pills aren't going to immediately 'go bad' by being in your hot bedroom...especially since you aren't storing them for months on end.

Nevertheless, it may be a good idea to try and find a cooler place in the house to at least preserve the integrity of the tablets.


Summary

  • Most birth control pills are recommended to be stored between 68 to 77℉ (20-25℃), with excursions allowed between 59-86℉ (15-30℃).
  • Storing your birth control pills in a hot room (at the top of the recommended storage range) are unlikely to significant affect them within a few month time-frame. They should retain their effectiveness.
  • The actual tablets however, may be more susceptible to crumbling or disintegration.

  • References
    1. Yaz Prescribing Information. AccessFDA
    2. Development of a solid dosage platform for the oral delivery of bilayer vesicles. PubMed
    3. Temperature excursion management: A novel approach of quality system in pharmaceutical industry. Science Direct
    4. Evaluation of Physical and Chemical Changes in Pharmaceuticals Flown on Space Missions. PubMed
    5. Stability Studies Needed to Define the Handling and Transport Conditions of Sensitive Pharmaceutical or Biotechnological Products. PubMed
    6. Selection of solid dosage form composition through drug-excipient compatibility testing. PubMed

    About the Pharmacist

    Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

    Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in numerous publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy-related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any inquiries or want to connect! He's answered thousands of medication and pharmacy-related questions and he's ready to answer yours! Brian.Staiger@PharmacistAnswers.com Office: 716-389-3076

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