When I was in pharmacy school, I remember one really cold day in December I was fed up with winter and took a break from studying to plan an escape. I wasn't sure where I was going to go the next summer, or what I was going to do, but I had heard of internships abroad, WWOOFing, and conservation trips, and knew there had to be something out there for me.
That search eventually led me to a PADI Divemaster internship at Subway Watersports, on the island of Roatan, Honduras. I guided dives, loaded and unloaded the boat, filled tanks, took cruise ship tourists out on snorkel trips, and took classes towards the PADI Divemaster rating.
The next year, I went back for another three weeks for a PADI Assistant Instructor internship with Reef Gliders, in West End. I had graduated from pharmacy school already, but Walgreens agreed to let me start June 1, which gave me just enough time between graduation and real life to go.
You're probably wondering by now - what does all this have to do with a medicine stability database?
While I initially went to Roatan for scuba diving, I was also shocked to see the living conditions many of the residents faced. When I went back to Roatan the second summer, I decided to email the founder of Medicines for Roatan to see if there was anything I might be able to do to help.
It turns out, the founder is also a pharmacist and one of her primary concerns was the stability of the medications being stored in the hospital, given they didn't have air conditioning sufficient to keep it at USP Controlled Room Temperature.
She set up the opportunity for me to spend one morning with the only pharmacist on the island (at the time), helping her stock medications and seeing healthcare in another country first-hand.
I quickly realized it's not feasible at all to expect every pharmacy, or vendor, who sells medications globally to be able to buy an air-conditioning unit. So what can we do? I did some research and discovered there was actually quite a bit of data out there on the stability of medications stored outside manufacturer-recommended temperature and/or humidity.
With that data, we can at least identify some of the medications particularly sensitive to heat and/or high humidity, and might also be able to set reasonable beyond-use dates based on the site-specific conditions.
The medicine stability database aims to compile data regarding the stability of drugs in uncontrolled tropical environments in a format that is easily accessible and readily available. In making this information available, I hope to be able to provide clinics in the developing world with the information they need to make decisions regarding pharmaceutical inventory management, by both controlling ordering and setting beyond-use dates specific to their regions.
It's important to note that I haven't worked on the database in quite some time, so am presenting it as-is, but I still feel it can provide a valuable starting point for clinics and pharmacies around the world.
It can also hopefully pique some interest in further building out the database and/or demonstrating its usefulness.
Check it out here!