Pharmacies ready to assist in national emergencies

May 24, 2011

U.S. pharmacies are ready and able to assist in the case of a national emergency, pharmacy officials recently told a Homeland Security subcommittee.

U.S. pharmacies are ready and able to assist in the case of a national emergency, pharmacy officials recently told a Homeland Security subcommittee.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) issued a statement to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications on the role that pharmacies play in emergency preparedness.

In mid-May, the subcommittee held a hearing on the medical measures being taken to protect the United States from chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attacks. “Pharmacies have existing technological infrastructures that can be leveraged to triage patients. They have a lot space to accommodate surges in patient demand, and sell personal protective equipment and medical supplies that may also be important in preventing or treating CBRN threats,” NACDS said in a written statement.

Pharmacies have already played a key role in responding to emergencies, as demonstrated during Hurricane Katrina and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnered with 10 retail pharmacy chains (encompassing 10,700 retail locations) and retail clinics to directly provide H1N1 vaccine. As a result, 10% of 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines were provided in a community pharmacy setting.

“Policymakers should be encouraged to engage the nation’s community pharmacies as primary Points of Dispensing to help extend the reach of public health. Pharmacists have performed a range of services to targeted patient populations following emergencies, including: dispensing countermeasures, administering vaccines, patient screening and triage, education of the public, and monitoring for adverse events,” the NACDS statement said.