"America on Alert" -- Safeguarding Your Medicines in Times of Crisis
|NCPIE Board member Dorothy Smith, Pharm.D.,
President of Consumer Health Information
Corporation, reminds everyone of a few simple
steps to safeguard medications. The following
article is reprinted with her permission. It
originally appeared in "Taking Control of Your
Medicines," Vol. 1, No. 2, Sept. 2001,
published by Consumer Health Information
|Be Prepared: Keep Your Medicines Close at Hand
|The tragic "Attack
on America" has increased the level of stress and anxiety
in our country. Many pharmacists across the United States are
noticing an increase in the number of prescriptions being filled
for anti-anxiety medicines. This is completely understandable.
Anyone whose normal activities are being affected by the unusual
stress and anxiety due to the tragedy may find the tips developed
by the National Mental Health Association to be helpful. The
website link is www.nmha.org/reassurance/adulttips.cfm.
The increased stress has
certainly changed everyone's priorities and it is very easy
to forget to take one's medicines. With the increased number
of building evacuations and airplane disruptions, there are
some steps that a person can take to make sure their medicines
are available so they will be able to take every dose when it
needs to be taken.
Don't take all
your medicines to work with you.
If you need to take some doses of your medicines at work,
it would be wise to carry only the medicines you need for
one week with you. Keep the remainder of your medicines
at home. Thus, if you are evacuated from your office and
cannot get back into the building for several hours or the
next day, you will still have the main supply of your medicines
Don't leave all
of your medicines at home.
"What if I take all my medicines at home? Are there
any special considerations?" Even if you take all your
medicines at home, it might be a good idea to carry a few
doses of your medicines with you just in case you are delayed
for several hours in getting home through traffic. Many
people who live near the World Trade Center were unable
to return to their homes for several days and missed several
doses of their medicines. How serious this is depends on
the specific medication. With some medicines such as those
used to treat heart conditions, blood pressure, seizures,
and to help prevent blood clots, missing just a few doses
can be very serious and even life-threatening.
Since your medicines are so
important to your health, you will want to make sure that
the few doses that you carry outside your home are stored
safely. The best thing to do is to ask your pharmacist if
it is possible to give you an extra prescription vial that
is labeled exactly the same as your original prescription
container. Another alternative is to purchase a weekly pill
organizer from your pharmacy. Be sure to ask your pharmacist
if it is safe to remove your medicines from the original
container. Never store your medicines loose in a tissue
or a plastic bag.
Always carry your
medicines with you on an airplane.
If you plan on traveling by airplane, it is more important
than ever that you prepare for delays and lost luggage.
It is never a good idea to pack your medicines in your check-in
luggage. Luggage could be lost as well as exposed to extreme
temperatures that could destroy prescription medicines.
To make sure that your medicine always arrives with you,
it is always a good idea to pack it in your carry-on luggage.
This way, if your flight is delayed or your luggage is lost,
you can still take your medicine on time.
If your prescriptions
are filled by a mail order pharmacy and are delayed because
of airplane service, call your local pharmacy.
Because of the airport disruptions last week, some medicines
filled by mail order pharmacies that were delivered by priority
or express mail did not arrive on time. The mail order pharmacies
recommended that patients call their doctors or a local
pharmacist. They also recommended that patients not send
any prescriptions through the mail when there are possible
delays in the postal system. Instead, people were encouraged
to order their refills through the company's websites or
automated telephone refill systems.
Until the airplane traffic
is stabilized, it would be wise to have a back-up pharmacy.
Go to a pharmacy near your home or work and speak directly
with the pharmacist. Ask the pharmacist what you should
do in the event that your mail order prescriptions are delayed
in the future. You can also check the mail order pharmacy's
website for more information as well as call their 1-800
If you are ever in a situation where you are all out of
your medicine and need a refill immediately, call your doctor
for a new prescription and take it to your local pharmacy.
Or you can also go to your local pharmacy and ask the pharmacist
to call your doctor for you. In times like this, it is important
to have a local pharmacist who can help you in an emergency.
Never before has America
faced such tragedy. Serious delays in traveling between home
and work caused many people to miss taking doses of their medicines.
Many others are still forgetting to take their medicines because
of high stress.
The key is that every person
taking prescription medicines must take steps to "Be Prepared"
and to keep their medicines close at hand - even after commuting
and traveling have returned back to normal.