During a disaster or emergency event, it is critical for people who take life-saving medications or drugs that control chronic conditions to have access to those medicines. I discovered this firsthand when my mom came to stay with me during Hurricane Sandy. She originally planned on staying only one night—she was overly optimistic about the power coming back on at her house—but when she heard the power was going to be off for at least a few more days, Mom began to panic a bit. She only brought a two-day supply of her medication, and was worried about having to skip a few days without it.
Luckily I know a thing or two about Medicare Part D, and was able to explain the situation to the CVS pharmacist in town. Even though my mom had just refilled her medication a few days earlier at her local CVS, the pharmacist was able to override Medicare’s “Refill too soon” claim rejection because of the emergency situation. Within 10 minutes, Mom had her medication in hand.
We were very fortunate in that my home town did not sustain any damage, so I knew there would be no trouble getting her medication. But what about the less fortunate people in areas like Staten Island, Rockaway Beach, and Long Beach Island, where so many homes are in ruins? How would people know where to go to get the medication they needed?
I started to do some digging on the subject, and came across the Rx Response’s Pharmacy Status Reporting Tool. The website provides real-time information about open pharmacies in storm-affected areas. Granted, one needs Internet access via computer or smart phone to use the site, but it’s still a good tool for those employees and volunteers in emergency management and at emergency shelters who are trying to help people find the closest open pharmacy.
According to the site, Rx Response works with the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) and pharmacy clearinghouses responsible for processing pharmacy payments. Once a request is made by a state emergency or public health official to begin pharmacy status reporting, Rx Response requests a list of all NCPDP pharmacies within an affected disaster area as well as a daily list of all pharmacies that are billing within the affected area. Once the data is processed, Rx Response displays a graphical, searchable map and downloadable Excel file of all known pharmacies, all open pharmacies, and any known affected/closed pharmacies.
The site is a bit clunky and not very user-friendly, but the concept is a good one that is much needed in this age of frequent storm surges. If anyone knows of a better site with this type of information, please let me know. With Sandy Part II expected to hit the northeast today and tomorrow, a lot of people may unfortunately be searching again for an open pharmacy.