The first global guidelines that support continued access to medicines and pharmacy expertise during natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and heatwaves, have been released by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP).
‘Responding to disasters: guidelines for pharmacy’ was produced by FIP’s pharmacy emergency management working group, which was set up in response to the rising number of pharmacists around the world requesting help during emergency situations, says RÃ©gis Vaillancourt, co-chair of the working group.
Members of FIP’s military and emergency pharmacy section were among those who responded to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the major earthquake and tsunami in Japan, both of which took place in 2011, explains Jane Dawson, co-chair of the working group and director of defence health policy at New Zealand Defence Force. “A lot of lessons were learned at a national level on what was needed to continue to supply medicines safely to patients after such catastrophic events,” she says.
The document calls on national governing bodies to consider authorising an expansion of pharmacists’ roles during disasters. It also contains information on preparing the pharmacy in case of specific disasters, and includes a list of medicines to stock for emergency situations.
The report also recommends that paper records are maintained. “In Christchurch, all the central city hotels were immediately closed. Tourists could not get back into their rooms which left many without their medicines. Trying to replace the ‘little white pills’ would have been a great deal easier if they had held a paper copy of their prescribed medicines,” says Dawson. “In some countries, for example Japan, all patients are given a paper copy to maintain. There are real advantages in this when computers cannot be accessed.”