Our Quick Guide to Pharmaceutical Refrigerators and Freezers - K2 Scientific

Our Quick Guide to Pharmaceutical Refrigerators and Freezers

Pharmacies provide medicines designated for specific purposes. Therefore, there are certain requirements for the storage of temperature-sensitive products. And, of course, we know you want to keep your pharmaceuticals and vaccines as safe as possible. This is why we’ve decided to put together a guide to pharma refrigeration, so you can more easily operate your pharmacy’s storage devices.


First and foremost, pharmaceutical stock should always come from a source you can trust. To avoid impotent medications, your provider should also store their stock in suitable conditions. Pharmaceutical materials should be packed in a way that ensures that temperatures are maintained throughout the shipping process. Once you receive your stock, examine your order carefully for items that need to be refrigerated or frozen. Then, check in the medications and other cold chain items promptly and put them away immediately.

To avoid mix-ups, keep all materials in their original packaging. Keeping them in their packaging also protects them from light. If the items have lids, they should be closed until they’re ready for administration.

Some pharmaceutical-grade refrigerators come with interior drawers, so if you’re looking for additional storage, take advantage of those. If you’d like, you can store your items in clear baskets or bins within refrigerators; the CDC actually recommends this. Each type of pharmaceutical item should have its own container. Depending on the unit, you may be able to store vaccines in it without losing their potency. However, you shouldn’t store other items in the same container as vaccines.

You can also use shelf tags to organize your unit’s stock. Have an effective stock rotation in place—check expiration dates regularly and keep the medications that expire first up front.

Generally, you should keep items in the refrigerator’s center space. Avoid storing items on the top shelf near the cooling vent. Also, you shouldn’t store highly temperature-sensitive items in the doors or on the floor of the unit. To help stabilize the unit’s temperature, you can store water bottles in the doors or on the unit’s floor.

Refrigerated items should be stored at temperatures between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 8 degrees Celsius). This mid-range temperature range is generally advised for any medical refrigerator, as this should accommodate possible fluctuations. Frozen medications and vaccines should be stored in pharmaceutical freezers at between -58 and +5 degrees Fahrenheit (or between -50 and -15 degrees Celsius).

Purchasing a unit

  • When it comes to your pharmacy’s units, you should have stand-alone pharmaceutical refrigerators and freezers; the CDC doesn’t recommend refrigerator-freezer combinations, such as household or dorm-style units.
  • Buy units that have enough storage. These units should be able to hold your largest stock. Refrigerators generally work best when they’re 30% full or almost completely loaded, at around 80%. An empty refrigerator is bound to experience fluctuations, while a refrigerator that’s too full impacts temperatures and won’t allow medications to have enough access to air.
  • When you’re ready to purchase a unit for your pharmacy, your best bet is to buy one with perforated or wire shelves instead of glass shelves, as they’re easy to clean and promote air circulation.
  • On the other hand, you could own dual units with single compressors—you just shouldn’t have combo domestic units that share a single compressor.
  • Purchase a unit that keeps items in plain view. Don’t overstock the refrigerator; the ideal fridge should be clean and organized, leaving enough room to promote air flow and keep consistent temperatures.
  • Glass doors are convenient, as they give you greater visibility into your unit when you want to check on your stock.
  • Once you purchase your unit, give it a few days to a week to make sure temperatures stabilize.

Unit placement

You must never place your pharmaceutical refrigerator or freezer near a heat source. Keep it in an easily accessible place that gives your unit plenty of clearance. Be sure you keep it in an area where employees won’t accidentally knock the plug out.

Furthermore, plug your unit into an outlet that can’t be tripped or switched off.

Facility procedures

  • Ensure that your staff is aware of current and new procedures. Your pharmacy’s staff should also know correct storage requirements.
  • Employees should never keep personal items in a purpose-built unit, nor should they store items that aren’t required to be stored in a cool environment.
  • Each unit should have a maximum/minimum thermometer.
  • Have a pharmacy policy dedicated to temperature logging, which should be completed at least twice daily. Be sure you also have a policy in place that addresses how to deal with out-of-range temperatures.
  • You should also create a cleaning and servicing schedule for your units. Clean your units frequently, and service your units at least once annually. Don’t forget to check each unit for signs of wear and tear.
  • Keep a chart in your pharmacy that illustrates each medication’s temperature requirements. Better yet, post the chart on or near each unit, so your staff can easily remember temperature ranges.
  • There shouldn’t be a lack of emergency response procedures in your pharmacy. If you want to prevent monetary losses, create a formal emergency plan for medication and vaccine storage. For example, refrigerator and freezer doors should be kept closed to retain cold air. Another example to add to your plan would be backup facilities and power sources in case there’s a power outage. Additionally, you should have enough emergency power to cover at least 24 hours of cool storage for your stock.
  • When patients receive pharmaceuticals, you should provide them with information about special storage conditions. Customers don’t have to refrigerate some medications, but others need continued refrigeration. Of course, you should also ensure that they have a thorough understanding of how to use their refrigerated or frozen medications.

Keep your temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical materials in proper storage conditions. Whether your facility requires a benchtop, built-in, or upright unit, K2 carries pharmaceutical-grade refrigerators and freezers for every storage need. With accurate temperature control, temperature alerts, CDC- and VFC-compliancy, and more, you’re able to meet stringent pharmaceutical standards with our units. To learn more, give us a call.

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