HOST: Captain Catherine Chew
Pharmacist: Dr. Henry Yu
CAPT Chew: The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research takes an active role in helping the nation prepare for, respond to, and recover from, emerging health threats and natural and man-made emergencies. Hi, I’m Captain Catherine Chew and this is Drug Info Rounds, brought to you by the pharmacists in FDA’s Division of Drug Information.
Today, I’m joined by my colleague Dr. Henry Yu who is here to tell us more about having a plan in place for emergency medication and medical supplies.
Dr. Yu: Pharmacists can play a vital role in educating their patients to plan for emergencies. You can advise your patients to:
- Keep an up-to-date list of their medications, including dose and indicated use
- Know how much medication they have on hand
- Obtain early refills if they anticipate access to their pharmacies will be disrupted
- Place medication bottles or packages in water-tight containers (such as plastic containers with lids) if there is a possibility of flooding or other water damage
- Have ice available for medications that need refrigeration
An emergency plan is especially important for those with health concerns, particularly if the power goes out. Taking precautions for storing medications and supplies is key to being prepared.
Drugs can be affected by extreme temperatures after a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, or winter storm or after a man-made event that results in power loss. Drugs also can be damaged by contact with contaminated water if flooding occurs or water pipes break.
Pharmacists can help their patients inspect their medications for damage.
In situations where lifesaving drugs have been exposed to water and replacements are not readily available, the drugs may be used if the container is contaminated but the contents appear unaffected. However, when replacement drugs become available, the drugs that may have become contaminated should be immediately discarded.
CAPT Chew: Some medications require clean water and refrigeration which may be unavailable during an emergency.
Dr. Yu: For drugs that have to be reconstituted, only bottled water should be used when clean tap water is unavailable. Liquids other than water should not be used to reconstitute these products.
If electrical power has been off for a long time, refrigerated drugs should be discarded. However, if the drug is absolutely necessary to sustain life (insulin, for example), it may be used until a new supply is available.
FDA offers more specific information for disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and winter storms online. Information regarding insulin storage and switching between products in an emergency is also available. Pharmacists and patients can also contact resources like the Red Cross, poison control, and health departments for guidance.
To help prepare our country for possible terrorist attacks, we are working with other federal agencies to make sure adequate supplies of medicine and vaccines are available to the American public. Pharmacists can learn more about terrorism preparations online as well.
CAPT Chew: It is very important to be prepared for emergency situations. Pharmacists can rely on these resources when advising their patients. For any unanswered questions, call or email FDA’s Division of Drug Information.