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Last Updated
September 18, 2014
FOR CONSUMERS
"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 Corporation.

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 at home.

  • 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 number.

    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.