Hot and Cold Drugs: National Park Service Medication Stability at the Extremes of Temperature.

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National Park Service (NPS) Parkmedics provide medical care in austere environments. The objective of this study was to evaluate the stability of specific medications used by Parkmedics at extremes of temperatures likely to be faced in the field.


This is a bench research study conducted in the laboratory setting over a 4-week period. Parenteral medications were separated into 4 temperature exposure groups: A) 45°C (hot); B) -20°C (cold); C) hot then cold temperatures alternating weekly; and D) cold then hot temperatures alternating weekly. At study start and the end of each week, three aliquots from each group were sampled to determine the remaining drug concentration through liquid chromatography-quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (Agilent LC 1260- QTOF/MS 6550). Quantitative analysis was done using Agilent MassHunter Quantitative Analysis software. The mean drug concentration from triplicate aliquots was expressed as percentage of its baseline concentration to monitor the drug's stability during storage.


Eight medications were analyzed (atropine, diphenhydramine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, midazolam, morphine, naloxone, ondansetron). Hydromorphone, morphine, and ondansetron showed the greatest stability, at above 90% of original concentration in all study arms. Diphenhydramine, fentanyl and midazolam showed heat independent degradation, degrading the same way regardless of heat exposure. By the end of the study period, 51-56% midazolam remained in all groups. Atropine and naloxone showed heat dependent degradation, degrading more when exposed to heat. Atropine had the most degradation, being undetectable after 4 weeks of heat exposure.


We recommend that EMS providers replace atropine, naloxone, diphenhydramine, fentanyl, and midazolam frequently if they are practicing in low call volume or high-temperature environments. Further studies will be needed to determine if re-dosing midazolam, naloxone, and atropine is the appropriate clinical strategy in this setting if adequate clinical effect is not reached with a single dose.

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