The question was asked what was the best way to store medications. I replied, but I inserted the opinion that I don't think that it would be a good idea to vacuum seal pills as they might explode. What I was talking about was capsules, medications sealed in gelatin shells. I reasoned that the air inside of the capsule might expand enough to cause the capsule to come apart. Carborendum replied that they would never explode, but I think that he was talking about liquid medications and their actually exploding. I clarified my statement, but it got me to thinking...do I actually know what I am talking about? I hate unsubstantiated claims--and I had just made one--but sometimes a sound, well reasoned opinion is the best that we can do. Well, in this case I can do one better, I can test it out. Will a medication capsule stored under vacuum come apart? Apparently not. Background. Pills come in two general forms: powders that have been compressed into solid tablets and powders that are poured into a shell. There are a lot of other forms ("fast melts," "rapid release gel," etc) but these two are the most common and most others are variations upon these forms. The pills made of powders that have been poured into a shell are usually called capsules (to get real confusing, tablets that are elongated with a rounded cross-section are often called caplets). Capsule shells are often made of gelatin, and you can buy empty ones on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&keyword ... les&page=1 Why would you buy empty gelatin shells? Some pharmacies compound their own drugs, some people will compound drugs for animals, and they can be useful for holding really small items that you don't want to lose/crush.). The two halves of these shells fit tightly together, one inside of the other. I hypothesized that they will fit so tightly together that the air trapped inside of the shell will cause the two halves to come apart if the capsules are subjected to vacuum. I choose nine pills/capsules made by various manufactures, all of current, unexpired stock to experiment with. These included six different antibiotics, one anti-seizure medication, one anti-diarrheal, and one stomach acid reducer.
I placed these pills in one of my Food Saver canisters and sucked the air out. I had considered using a pill bottle and vacuum sealing bag, but I was afraid that the lid to the bottle might be pushed down and seal in some of the air.
During the vacuum sealing process, some of the pills appeared to swell. However, all remained intact. After 30 minutes, they were still intact so I shook them vigorously. No change. I waited an hour, shook them again. Nothing, all of the pills remained intact.
At two hours after I initially vacuum sealed the pills, I again shook them with no change. I then released the vacuum and resealed the canister five times. Each time, I could see some of the pills swell slightly, but they all remained intact.
As best as I can tell, vacuum sealing pills will not harm them. I do think that there is a risk that, given the slight swelling, that the gelatin shells may weaken and fail over time, but I did not test for that. I honestly can see only marginal benefits to vacuum sealing medications: yes, it will keep out humidity and oxygen, but the factors of temperature, light, and time will remain unaffected. I think that if it substantially enhanced shelf life at least some manufacturers would be packaging medications like this. (As an aside, some medications are vacuum sealed by the manufacturer. However, these are usually powders that have to be reconsistuted for IV injection.) Personally, I am not going to change the way that I store my medications. I keep them in the original packaging, inside of plastic tubs with silica gel packets, in the back of my closet where the temperature seems to remain pretty steady. Ideally, I would like to have them in there own temperature/humidity controlled room, but I don't have the resources for that.