Pharmacists rally to help evacuees as Calif. wildfires rage

November 5, 2007

Pharmacists rally to help fire evacuees of the San Diego wildfires.

Cathi Lord, spokeswoman for the California Pharmacists Association, told Drug Topics that several pharmacy owners and chain drugstores were working collaboratively throughout Southern California to assist patients in getting their medications. She went on to say that when an independent pharmacy was evacuated or closed for some other reason, the owners networked with one another to fill prescriptions from neighboring pharmacies.

At press time, Lord informed Drug Topics that "Costco and Target have been assisting patients who have been evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium. There are also members from our San Diego County Pharmacists Association who are coordinating pharmacists, technicians, and student pharmacists to assist patients with prescriptions at the Del Mar Race Track and Fairgrounds in San Diego. Many supplies have been donated from Sharp Memorial Hospital and various community organizations, while nurses, doctors, and pharmacists have worked together to serve the patients."

CVS/pharmacy spokesman Mike DeAngelis told Drug Topics that during the first few days of the wildfires, there was minor exterior damage to a CVS pharmacy in Malibu and seven stores in the San Diego area were closed due to evacuation orders. He also reported that all other CVS stores in the area at the time that were open were able to fill prescriptions.

CVS also made a donation of more than $300,000 in supplies to assist with California fire relief efforts. A truckload of healthcare and personal care items was delivered to Qualcomm Stadium to aid evacuees sheltered there. CVS also established an emergency prescription delivery service to the stadium and said it would deliver a seven-day supply of prescription medications to about 300 evacuees identified by on-site medical personnel.

CVS was providing more than 9,200 ExtraCare Relief Kits, which contained almost two dozen personal care items each, to the American Red Cross for distribution to other shelters in San Diego.

Rite Aid announced that the Rite Aid Foundation made a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families, and communities affected by the wildfire devastation. The chain also shipped items, including eyedrops, lip balm, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer. Patients were able to continue to fill or pick up their prescriptions at any open Rite Aid, even if their neighborhood store had been evacuated.

Walgreens donated more than $60,000 in merchandise to aid evacuees. Two truckloads of donated merchandise were brought to Qualcomm Stadium.

Safeway and its Southern California-based Vons division announced they were donating $750,000 to support relief efforts. The Safeway Foundation is making a $500,000 cash donation. Safeway and Vons provided 16 truckloads filled with $250,000 worth of supplies. In addition, 300 Vons and Pavilions stores will serve as collection points for customers who wish to make a donation.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores was quick to issue a statement of sympathy and support for those affected by the wildfires. The association reported that many member companies were allowing their patients to fill their Rxs at any of the chain's locations.

NACDS credited SureScripts and the nation's pharmacies for activating access to the Emergency RxHistory service, which makes it possible for pharmacies to obtain and fill Rxs through the use of a secure network, even if the patient's prescription originated at another pharmacy. For more information, go to http://www.ICERx.org/. Visit http://www.RxResponse.org/ to view a public statement by RxResponse, a collaborative effort designed to help support the continued delivery of medicines during a severe public health emergency.

Prescription data are available only to U.S.-licensed physicians and pharmacists who have been authenticated and registered on http://ICERx.org/. To register, licensed physicians and pharmacists should call 1-(888) ICERX-50 and press 0 to ask for customer service.

Finally, Stanley Goldenberg, R.Ph., chairman of the California pharmacy board, invited pharmacists licensed to practice in states other than California to "come in and help us." He said the board was encouraging pharmacists in the disaster areas "to accept appropriate help and always take care of the patients first."