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A Prescription for Preparedness

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Woman putting medication in a pill organizer.

September is National Preparedness Month. Throughout the month, the Center for Preparedness and Response will publish posts that highlight the work of public health departments as it relates to personal health preparedness themes. This week’s theme is Prescriptions.

Imagine a major hurricane has taken aim at where you live. Local authorities have not ordered an evacuation for your area, but—as you know from experience—hurricanes don’t only affect people living along the coast; they can cause flooding and power outages hundreds of miles inland.

In the course of preparing for this hypothetical hurricane, you gather personal needs, paperwork, and power sources. While taking stock of your family’s prescriptions, you notice that you’re running low on a few maintenance medications. You have enough to see you through the next 7 to 10 days, but what if there’s a prolonged power outage? What if you have to evacuate? You’re also not due for a refill.

What can you do? The answer—at least in part—is that it depends on where you live.

Emergency Prescription Laws

Pharmacies are governed at the state and U.S.-territory level, so emergency refill laws can vary widely from state to state and from territory to territory. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education showed that 21 states have no provision for public-health-emergency refill dispensing and 15 states limit emergency refill quantities to a 72-hour supply.(1)

You might be wondering what your state’s laws are governing refills in an emergency. The following is a state-by-state list of emergency prescription refill laws compiled by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy in 2016. As such, this list is provided for discussion purposes only.

The best way to find out if laws where you live permit pharmacists to dispense an early refill of medications in an emergency is to contact your state or local public health department.

Alabama – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply                                    Montana – Emergency refills allowed, reasonable quantity

Alaska – No emergency refill information available                                     Nebraska – No emergency refill information available

Arizona – No emergency refill information available                                   Nevada – No emergency refill information available

Arkansas – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply                                   New Hampshire – Emergency refills allowed, 30-day supply

California – Emergency refills allowed, reasonable quantity                        New Jersey – No emergency refill information available

Colorado – No emergency refill information available                                 New Mexico – No emergency refill information available

Connecticut – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply                               New York – No emergency refill information available

Delaware – Emergency refills allowed, reasonable quantity                         North Carolina – Emergency refills allowed, 30-day supply

Florida – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply                                       North Dakota – No emergency refill information available

Georgia – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply                                     Ohio – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Hawaii – No emergency refill information available                                     Oklahoma – Emergency refills allowed, 30-day supply

Idaho – Emergency refills allowed, 30-day supply                                       Oregon – Emergency refills allowed, 30-day supply

Illinois – No emergency refill information available                                     Pennsylvania – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Indiana – No emergency refill information available                                    Rhode Island – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Iowa – Emergency refills allowed, reasonable quantity                                South Carolina – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Kansas – Emergency refills allowed, reasonable quantity                           South Dakota – No emergency refill information available

Kentucky – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply                                   Tennessee – No emergency refill information available

Louisiana – No emergency refill information available                                Texas – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Maine – No emergency refill information available                                      Utah – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Maryland – Emergency refills allowed, 14-day supply                                  Vermont – No emergency refill information available

Massachusetts – No emergency refill information available                       Virginia – Emergency refills allowed, reasonable quantity

Michigan – No emergency refill information available                                  Washington – Emergency refills allowed, 3-day supply

Minnesota – No emergency refill information available                                West Virginia – No emergency refill information available

Mississippi – No emergency refill information available                              Wisconsin – No emergency refill information available

Missouri – Emergency refills allowed, 7-day supply                                    Wyoming – No emergency refill information available

States that declare emergencies do have legal authority to activate workarounds to help people get the medicine they need. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, several states along the U.S. Gulf Coast implemented emergency measures that authorized pharmacists to issue 30-day refills of prescribed medications.(1)

Prepare Your Health

The important piece for you to consider now is not to wait until there’s an emergency to find out if you can get an emergency prescription refill. If you are one of the millions of Americans who depend on prescription drugs, act now:

  • Talk to your doctor about creating an emergency supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of all prescription medications. According to Healthcare Ready, 40 percent of survey participants said they could list all their prescription details if they were without their medications in an evacuation.(2)
  • Pet owners: Work with your veterinarian to prepare an emergency supply of medications, including flea, tick, and heartworm preventative.

What if you’re uninsured and you find yourself in a federally-declared disaster area without your medication and medical supplies, or you’re in need of a vaccination? There are federal funds available to help eligible people get the emergency assistance that they need.

Emergency Assistance

The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) helps people who live in a federally-declared disaster area and do not have health insurance. Eligible people can receive a free 30-day supply of their medications for as long as EPAP is active. People can also use the program to receive vaccinations or to replace certain medical supplies or some forms of medical equipment that were lost or damaged because of the emergency or while evacuating.

For more information, recommendations, and tips on how to Prepare Your Health for a natural disaster or emergency, please visit www.cdc.gov/cpr/prepareyourhealth.

References

 

Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that the CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor. 

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO (https://www.cdc.gov/cdc-info/index.html) offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

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