Pharmacists Play Critical Role After Natural Disasters

Pharmacists can help the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma with proper inspection of prescription drugs for contamination.

While extensive preparation for hurricanes and other natural disasters is generally the most effective plan, sometimes patients are unable to do so. In these instances, patient health and wellness can be threatened, especially for those who lose access to necessary prescription drugs.

As thousands of Americans face uncertainty about the path forward after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the FDA reminds patients that their pharmacists are a crucial component in their journey, specifically concerning their health.

Prescription drugs can be altered after exposure to extreme temperatures due to a natural disaster that results in power loss, such as the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, TX. Prescription drugs may also be contaminated through flood water or if a pipe bursts.

Despite the dangerous events facing patients and their medications, pharmacists are significantly important in helping patients who have lived through a natural disaster, according to a Drug Info Rounds video from the FDA.

Pharmacists can assist patients in examining drugs for damage and discard the treatment if necessary.

In circumstances where the containers of life-saving medications have been exposed to floodwater and other treatments are not available, pharmacists can determine if the drug should be used, as long as the contents appear to be unaffected, according to the FDA.

The FDA warns that once replacement drugs are available, potentially contaminated drugs should be disposed of and patients should begin treatment with non-contaminated drugs.

For medications that must be reconstituted, pharmacists should advise patients to only use bottled water if clean water is otherwise unavailable, pharmacist Henry Yu said in the video.

Additionally, if the power has been out for an extended amount of time, refrigerated products should be disposed of; however, only under certain circumstances—such as for life-sustaining drugs like insulin—should an unrefrigerated drug be used until new doses are available, according to the video.

Since temperature-sensitive drugs may lose potency if unrefrigerated, they should be replaced immediately, the FDA reports.

For more on the importance of the work performed by pharmacists during natural disasters click below:

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