Accessing Prescription Drugs During a Natural Disaster

Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Friday, September 8th, 2017
Thousands of residents had to abandon their homes in Houston, TX, recently due to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, and many more are leaving their homes as Hurricane Irma makes its way toward Florida. Whether individuals left before, during, or after the storm, it is likely much was left behind, including prescription medications.
Missing doses of necessary drugs can result in disease progression and poor health outcomes, according to the AARP. 
“This is a horrible, devastating time, but people should realize that continuing to take their medicines will help them meet the challenges,” said Barbara Young of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
Texas allows pharmacists to dispense a 30-day supply of medication during a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Harvey. American Red Cross staff is also allowed to help with this process. While these resources provide patients with increased access to necessary treatments, additional avenues may be needed.
The government and several organizations provide resources for those in need of prescription drugs during a natural disaster, according to the AARP.
During a natural disaster, the AARP recommends:
1. Check for open pharmacies.
The website shows individuals which pharmacies are open during natural disasters, in addition to local American Red Cross shelters and infusion centers.
2. Receive care at community health centers.
During natural disasters, Direct Relief provides free prescription drugs and medical supplies for low-income individuals at community health centers of clinics, according to the AARP.
3. Contact Medicare.
The AARP advises that Medicare-insured patients contact the plan to determine the closest network pharmacy that is open. If none are open, Medicare will be able to connect patients with another pharmacy.
4. Contact a dialysis provider.
Medicare patients who need dialysis during a natural disaster should contact their End-Stage Renal Disease Network or Medicare to find out how they can access supplies, transportation, and other services, according to the AARP.
5. Contact the National Cancer Institute.
Continuing cancer treatment is crucial for patient outcomes; however, this may be threatened during a natural disaster. For patients who need chemotherapy or other treatment, the National Cancer Institute can pinpoint providers.

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