The Mail Might Be Bad for Your Medications

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The post office and other delivery systems are magical — and when it comes to health care, they've been almost miraculously helpful. For people who need medicine but can't easily access a pharmacy (or, let's be real, anyone who doesn't want to wait in line, especially during a pandemic), being able to get your prescription in the mail is a lifesaver. Unfortunately, it's not a perfect system yet.

Researchers at the University of Utah have just released a study looking at how medicines perform after being in transit through the U.S. Postal Service. Specifically, they examined how temperatures and exposure affect different medications, both during the summer and winter months. The news isn't great: Prolonged storage in temperatures outside of room temperate (between about 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit) can cause pills and other drugs to lose effectiveness in unpredictable ways.

"Every shipment [tracked in the study] was exposed to temperatures outside the recommended range at some point during transit," according to a press release, "with the percentage of time spent out of those temperatures ranging from 68 percent to 87 percent in the winter and 27 percent to 54 percent in summer."

The holiday shopping season, combined with increased use of mailing services thanks to COVID-19, has really made a mess of the mail. If you're able, it may be worth the trouble to pick up your prescriptions in person. Still, it's worth ensuring that the system protects everyone — if you're concerned about the issue, there's no bad time to reach out to your elected representatives, who have some sway over how change gets made.