The Real Reason Prescription Pill Bottles Are Orange

It might be hard to believe, but there is a very specific reason why modern prescription bottles are orange. It’s the same reason that some prescription bottles are opaque. As Rx Saver explains, these design choices were made to protect the medication in the bottles from ultraviolet light. This naturally occurring form of radiation, found in sunlight, can degrade medication.

This degradation can render the medication less effective because the UV light can alter or damage chemical compounds. These alterations can also cause the medication to have different effects on the body or result in unexpected side effects. Some medications are more light-sensitive (or photosensitive) than others, but the orange bottles help prevent degradation, regardless of the medication type. It’s an important enough issue that a study highlighting the need for rapid response UV degradation testing was published in Chemistry & Chemical Technology in 2011.

Another study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences in 2018 suggested that LED light may also degrade medications. The study authors found that brown plastic bags helped avoid any color change or signs of degradation in tested medications, but research into the effects of LED light is still ongoing. In the meantime, the trusty orange bottle will keep our medications safe from UV light so we know we’re getting what we expect from our prescriptions.

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