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TCI: Safeguarding medications during and after natural disasters (Hurricane Season)

#Providenciales, August 8, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – The Pharmacy Unit of the Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services (MoHASHS) is committed to providing relevant and up-to-date information to the general public on how to keep their medications safe during and after the occurrence of all natural disasters and emergencies.

An emergency plan is especially important for those with health concerns, particularly if there is a power outage. Preparation is key; therefore, it is important to take precautions for storing medications and supplies. Medications can be affected by flooding once they come in contact with contaminated water and extreme temperatures after natural disasters such as hurricanes.

If a situation arises where medicines, especially lifesaving medicines, have been exposed to contaminated water and replacements are not available, patients are advised as a first step to identify whether the packaging only or both the packaging and the contents have been affected. If on inspection it is found that only the packaging is affected, patients may use the medications until replacements become available. However, if both packaging and contents appear to be affected, patients should discard those medications and seek immediate medical attention. 

Pharmacists play a key role in assisting patients to inspect and identify any damage to their medication(s).

They can advise and educate patients to do the following:

  1. Keep an up-to-date list of all medications, including dosage and what the medication is used for.
  2. Know how much medication(s) they currently have in their possession.
  3. Obtain early refills in the event that pharmacy services are disrupted. The number of refills are guided by the policies of the National Health Insurance Plan (NHIP).
  4. Place medication packages (boxes, bottles, vials, ampoules, etc.) in water-tight containers (such as plastic containers with lids or ziplock bags) as there is a possibility of water damage or flooding.
  5. Ensure that ice is available for medications that require refrigeration.
  6. Discard refrigerated medications if power is off for a long time and sufficient ice is not available to maintain cold temperatures. If there are no immediately available replacements, the refrigerated medications may be used only after confirming with your pharmacist/physician that they are vital, essential and necessary to sustain life.
  7. To mix medications, such as antibiotics, only bottled water should be used.  No other liquids should be used for this purpose.

The MoHASHS believes it is very important to be prepared for emergency situations. Therefore, it is important that patients, pharmacists and all members of the healthcare team are fully aware and prepared to safeguard vital, essential and necessary medications.

For more information regarding the regulation of controlled drugs, please contact the National Pharmacist, André Morgan at 338-3072.

Release: TCIG

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