Pharmacy Assistant

Ampoules vs. Vials Explained for Pharmacy Assistant School Students

March 04, 2020

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Throughout your career as a pharmacy assistant, you could work with a variety of different vials and ampoules. These are vessels used to store and transport medical compounds like drugs and samples, usually in liquid form.

Whilst they may seem identical to the untrained eye, ampoules and vials are different storage containers with different uses. Ampoules are smaller and used to hold single-dose medicines, whereas vials tend to be larger, and the product inside can be stored and reused. Read on to learn more about how pharmacy assistants use ampoules and vials.

Ampoules Are Small and Single-Use

The main difference between ampoules and vials is that an ampoule cannot be reused. This is because an ampoule is sealed at the neck using heat and has to be cracked open to access the product.

Unlike a screw top or rubber stopper, an ampoule cannot be resealed once it is opened. The way that an ampoule is sealed shut means that the chemical compound inside is protected from exterior elements like oxygen. Because they cannot be reused, ampoules are usually used to store and transport single doses of medicines or samples.

Ampoules are usually made of glass,but you may also encounter plastic ampoules in pharmacy assistant training.

Vials Can Be Reused in Pharmacy Assistant Training

In contrast, vials can be sterilized and reused multiple times. Vials are typically larger in size and are used to carry multiple doses of drugs. Vials are sealed with a screw on cap or rubber plug, which means they can be unsealed and resealed. Pharmacy assistants could also use a needle to extract the liquid sample from a vial by piercing the rubber stopper.

Like ampoules, vials are also available in plastic or glass. Vials usually have a flat bottom, meaning they can be easily placed on a counter or shelf.

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Unlike ampoules, vials have rubber stoppers or screw top caps that can be resealed after opening

Ampoules Can Be Used to Store Unstable Chemical Compounds

In pharmacy assistant school, you might learn about the differences between stable and unstable compounds. An unstable compound is one that is reactive and could change in the presence of oxygen or another element.

Ampoules are best for storing unstable elements as the seal protects the compound from contamination. To make sure that the drug remains stable, drug manufacturers may extract air from the ampoule before inserting the drug. In contrast, vials are best used to store stable elements.

Another important difference is that ampoules are used as temporary storage devices, whereas vials can store medicines for a longer period of time.

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Ampoules can store unstable chemical compounds as they protect them from exterior elements

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