Following a natural disaster, drugs may be affected by exposure to fire, flooding or unsafe water. Some drugs may be temperature-sensitive and refrigeration may not be readily available due to power interruptions. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at FDA offers the following information and tips to keep you and your family safe.
Tips For Safe Drug Use After A Natural Disaster
Drugs And Exposure To Excessive Heat
When drugs are exposed to excessive heat, such as fire, their effectiveness can be neutralized. Do consider replacing any medication which has been exposed to a heat source, like an open flame.
Lifesaving Drugs Exposed To A Heat Source
When disaster strikes, you’ll want to have lifesaving medications replaced as soon as possible. In a disaster, it may not be possible to arrange for immediate replacement of medication. Examine the medication in the container carefully. If it appears undamaged, continued to use it only until you can get it replaced.
Drugs Exposed To Flood Or Unsafe Water
Any pills, tablets, capsules, inhalers, drugs for injection or skin medications that are exposed to either flood or unsafe public water have the potential to become contaminated. The contamination can lead to diseases with serious health consequences.
Any drug products should be disposed of if they have come into contact with either flood or contaminated water. This includes any products stored in containers with snap lids, screw-on caps or droppers.
If the medication has been stored in an alternative storage container, such as a plastic pill reminder box, it also needs to be discarded if it has come into contact with flood or contaminated water.
Lifesaving Drugs Exposed To Water
In a number of cases, these medications are lifesaving and replacements will not be immediately available. In these situations, examine the container and the drug carefully. If the container was contaminated but the contents are dry, continue to use the drugs until you can have the contents replaced. If a pill is wet, it has been contaminated and cannot be consumed; it should be discarded immediately.
Some children’s drugs that need to be made into a liquid using water (reconstituted). These medications should only be mixed with either purified or bottled water. Do not mix these products with any other liquids.
Drugs That Must Be Refrigerated
Certain drugs, such as insulin and ones that have been reconstituted, must be refrigerated. If the electricity has been interrupted for some time, the drug should be thrown out. In a situation where a drug must be used to sustain life, it can be used until a replacement becomes available.
Be advised that temperature-sensitive drugs lose their potency if they are not refrigerated. They should be replaced with a refrigerated version as soon as possible.
What You Can Do If A Medication Is Medically Necessary And Can’t Be Replaced Quickly
In a situation where a contaminated product is medically necessary and would be difficult to replace quickly, contact the Red Cross, your local health department or poison control for instructions. You can get information about the safety or effectiveness of a product by contacting a pharmacist or the manufacturer’s customer service department.
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Chief Operating Officer, The Compounding Pharmacy of America
Matthew Poteet, Pharm.D. graduated with Honors from Lee University with a Bachelors of Science in Biological Science. After his undergraduate training, he completed the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Mercer University Southern School of Pharmacy, graduating in 2004. Dr. Poteet has spent much of his pharmacy career on staff at two of the most prestigious academic teaching hospitals in the Southeast; Emory University in Atlanta and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. At these institutions he received extensive experience and training in sterile products compounding.
He returned home to East Tennessee in 2010, where he has held the position of Pharmacy Director at two sterile products pharmacies in Knoxville. Matthew lives in Knoxville with his wife, Chris. Dr. Poteet is Tennessee’s first Board Certified Anti-Aging Pharmacist by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.