Ever wonder why pill bottles are orange? Here’s your answer.


It’s something you don’t really think of, until someone asks the question. Why are pill bottles orange? Pill bottles are translucent orange to mimic amber-colored bottles that used to be used years ago. The orange coloring helps keep UV light from damaging the medications that are kept inside the bottle. Medications can be photosensitive, meaning UV light could create a photo-chemical reaction, which could damage the medication.

Orange pill bottles keep UV light from damaging medications

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a type of electromagnetic radiations, which comes from the sun and is invisible to the human eye.

Some pill bottles are white and not translucent, so no sunlight can reach the medications.

How does heat affect medications?

Certain medications can degrade quickly, if they are exposed to intense heat and light. Certain medications, like lorazepam and diazepam, can decrease in potency by 75% and 25%, respectively, if they are exposed to temperatures above 98 degrees.

Although albuterol inhalers aren’t stored in orange pill bottles, you need to be cautious about where they, and other inhalers, are stored. If an albuterol inhaler is exposed to temperatures exceeding 120 degrees, it could possibly explode.

Be cautious, even if your medication has “special packaging”

Special packaging, like blister and foil packs, may seem like they could keep your medication safe from heat and sunlight, but they may not protect your medications like you think they’re supposed to. Even though this is the case, you should never take your medications out of their original packaging. That being said, it is common for medications to be put in a pill box, for those on day-to-day maintenance drugs.

7 Medicine storage tips

  • Store your medications in a cool, dry place
  • Heat and moisture from your shower or bath can damage your medicine, making them less potent or causing them to go bad before the expiration date
  • Don’t store medication by the stove or any type of hot appliance
  • Always keep medicine in its original container
  • Take the cotton ball out of the medicine bottle – it pulls moisture into the bottle
  • Ask your pharmacist if your medication has specific storage instructions
  • Store medications out of reach and sight of children and with a child latch or lock

How to know if your medication is damaged

You should never take any medication that may be damaged. You can identify if your medication is damaged if the color or consistency of it has changed, regardless of your expiration date. The medications may also have an unusual odor. If you have any questions of concerns about your medication being damaged, seek your pharmacist’s input. Your pharmacist can give you expert advice on if your medication is still safe to take.

Under specific circumstances, some drug manufacturers will actually replace your medication, if it has been damaged. If you find your medications have been damaged, make sure to reach out to the manufacturer. Though this may be a way to save money, the replacement program could take more time than it is worth.

Disposal of medications

The disposal of medications is pretty straightforward. There are a few things you should know before destroying or disposing your medication though. Consider these three things:

  • Are there any specific disposal instructions? For example, not all medicine should be flushed down the sink or toilet
  • Take advantage of programs that allow you to take unused drugs to a central location for proper pickup. Such programs can be found by contacting local law enforcement agencies or your city’s household trash and recycling service
  • Transfer unused medicines to collectors registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Authorized sites may be retail, hospital or clinical pharmacies and law enforcement agencies. Visit the DEA’s website or call 1-800-882-9539 for more information and to find an authorized collector in near you

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