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Safe Storage of Medications


A Public Health Service officer is at work in an I.H.S. pharmacy.
In health care facilities, medications must be stored and monitored to prevent theft or diversion. Indian Health Service policies, as well as state, Tribal, and federal regulations govern the security, inventory, and climate control of medications. Requirements for storage can often be found also on the medication’s label.

Patients should be educated on how to safely store their medications at home to prevent theft or accidental poisoning.


Medications, especially controlled substances, must be securely stored in accordance with laws, regulations, and organizational policies. Depending on state and federal laws governing a particular area, controlled substances may need to be stored in separate rooms from other medications or with different locks. Access to these medications and areas should be restricted to authorized persons only. Procurement, transfer, and disposal of controlled substances are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Indian Health Service policy, as well as state, Tribal, and federal law.


All medications must be accurately labeled with the contents, expiration date, and appropriate warnings. Appropriate labeling also reduces the risk of medical errors, such as incorrect medication selection or use of an expired and less-potent medication.

Separate inventories of controlled substances must be regularly maintained: one inventory for Schedule II drugs and one for Schedules III through V drugs.

All purchases, transfers, and disposals must be maintained in the inventory records. They must be conducted in compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration and Indian Health Service policy. They also have to be in compliance with state, Tribal, and federal law.


All medications have various storage requirements, such as temperature, low humidity, protection from light, and other considerations. Storage requirements help ensure that medications maintain their potency and help reduce the risk of harm to patients. Medication storage requirements may be found on the medication’s label or from a third-party resource.


Office of Diversion Control. Controlled Substances Security Manual: An Informational Outline of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Washington, DC: Drug Enforcement Administration, 1991.

Indian Health Manual, Part 3, Chapter 7, Pharmacy.” Indian Health Manual. Indian Health Service, n.d.