Accidentally Left Nortriptyline In A Hot Car

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses how leaving a drug like Pamelor (nortriptyline) in a hot car could affect it.

Accidentally Left Nortriptyline In A Hot Car
Jul 05, 2020

Kim asked

I left my Pamelor (nortriptyline) in a hot car for a few hrs. Is it compromised?

At a glance

  • I cannot say with 100% certainty that the drug is still safe to take and has not broken down.
  • It’s probably still OK to take. Drugs are manufactured to withstand less than ideal conditions.


Hi Kim and thank you for your great question. I checked every pharmacy reference that I have access to. Unfortunately, I will not be able to give you a 100% correct answer, but I can give you my best-educated opinion on the matter. 

Your Pamelor (or by the generic name, nortriptyline) will most likely be fine to use if it is exposed to higher than the manufacturer's recommended temperatures for just a few hours.

The professional monograph from the manufacturer states “Store at 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F) [See USP Controlled Room Temperature]. Dispense in a tight container (USP) with a child-resistant closure. 

Fortunately, even though it’s not explicitly stated, drugs are manufactured to be able to withstand less than ideal conditions. Nortriptyline is prescribed all around the world, in countries that are in warmer climates and don’t have the luxury of air conditioning in the home to cool their drugs (or the folks living there). Additionally, there’s a decent chance that the truck that carried the drugs to the pharmacy before they filled it for you was a bit warm as well. 

We know that some drugs are fragile and very sensitive to temperature, but they are usually drugs that need to be kept in the refrigerator or freezer. These medications are sent to your pharmacy in insulated totes with ice packs and are typically insulins, protein-based drugs, and vaccines. I was not able to find any information on nortriptyline breaking down at higher than normal temperatures. 

If the capsules appear warped, or the gelatin (the actual shell of the capsule) melted and fused with other capsules, then I would call your pharmacy and ask if they can be replaced, though you might need to pay cash for the refill. If they look fine, then they probably are fine. Again, unfortunately, I cannot guarantee this with 100% certainty.

  • Pamelor Prescribing Information., FDA
  • Expiration Dating and Stability Testing for Human Drug Product., FDA

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