Ensuring Medication Safety and Accessibility During Natural Disasters


It is important to have an emergency plan that helps protect pharmacists, pharmacies, and their patients when these catastrophes hit, as well as the aftermath.

Last year was recorded as 1 of the most active, expensive years for natural disasters and emergency events, with a total of $91 billion in economic damages in the United States.1 This year, Hurricane Dorian has caught the attention of health care professionals.

According to officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “The Food and Drug and Administration’s current assessments have identified more than 12,000 FDA-regulated industries across all regulated product areas in Florida that may be impacted by this storm."1

A planned or unplanned event can happen at any time, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms for many people living in the affected areas. It is important to have an emergency plan that helps protect pharmacists, pharmacies, and their patients when these catastrophes hit and the aftermath. 2

For hospital pharmacies, an emergency response plan is a necessity. According to Cindy Thornton, Vice President of Distribution Operations for McKesson Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services, developing procedures in advance of a storm can help limit the impact of these events on hospital operations.2

A reliable drug supply—such as having a standing order with a wholesaler and ensuring drugs are stored in protected areas—and looking after the support team that is helping patients are 2 more ways to help ensure high quality of care during disasters, according to Thornton.2

Some health care companies also are taking initiatives to assist patients and stay organized ahead of Hurricane Dorian:

  • Walgreens is providing resources, such as Prescription Drug Preparedness, store updates via app or website, and customer support through temporary mobile pharmacies, for those in need of assistance.3
  • RxOpen is helping patients find nearby open pharmacies in areas that are impacted by the storm. The resource is frequently updated and uses a color-coded key to notify consumers about which pharmacies are available or those having issues.4
  • UnitedHealthcare and Optum are offering the Free Help Line for emotional support during the hurricane, along with an available mobile app and phone number to help participants who have misplaced their Medical ID cards. 5

Pharmacists can advise patients who are on a specific drug regimen to attempt to pre-plan any medication orders, as nonadherence may be life-threatening for certain conditions. Certain technology exists, like ParcelShield, that can assist in decreasing the stress of not being able to retrieve your prescriptions due to inclement weather.

Using WeatherFarm technology and a machine learning model, ParcelShield analyzes specific zip codes, deliverability methods, past delivery paths, and weather patterns to prematurely avoid any delivery issues between pharmacists and their patients. Guillermo Sollberger, President and CEO of ParcelShield, said in an interview that it is important for these communities to “plan early, but be precise and leverage technology, such as ParcelShield, in helping those decisions.”


  • Preparing for Medication Safety, Accessibility During a Natural Disaster


  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. HHS Secretary Azar declares public health emergency for state of Florida due to Hurricane Dorian. HHS website. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2019/08/30/secretary-azar-declares-public-health-emergency-florida-hurricane-dorian.html. Published August 30, 2019. Accessed September 3, 2019.
  • How to Disaster-Proof Your Hospital Pharmacy. McKesson website. https://www.mckesson.com/blog/disaster-proof-hospital-pharmacy/. Published August 29, 2019.
  • Walgreens mobilizes in advance of Hurricane Dorian to support customers, team members and communities in storm’s projected path [news release]. Deerfield, Ill.: Walgreens Newsroom; August 30, 2019. https://news.walgreens.com/press-releases/general-news/walgreens-mobilizes-in-advance-of-hurricane-dorian-to-support-customers-team-members-and-communities-in-storms-projected-path.htm. Accessed September 3, 2019.
  • Rx Open. Healthcare Ready website. https://www.healthcareready.org/rxopen. Published September 2, 2019.
  • UnitedHealthcare and Optum take action to support people in Carolinas and Georgia preparing for Hurricane Dorian [news release]. Atlanta, GA: BusinessWire; August 31, 2019. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190831005015/en. Accessed September 3, 2019.

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