During times of national emergency, pharmacies have demonstrated unique capabilities in helping citizens and government prepare and respond, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores told a congressional committee.


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NACDS: In emergencies, pharmacies ready to help

May 13th, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – During times of national emergency, pharmacies have demonstrated unique capabilities in helping citizens and government prepare and respond, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores told a congressional committee.

NACDS said late Thursday that it issued a statement to the House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications on the role that pharmacies play in emergency preparedness. The subcommittee held a hearing titled, "Taking Measure of Countermeasures: A Review of Efforts to Protect the Homeland Through Distribution and Dispensing of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear) Medical Countermeasures."

In the statement, NACDS explained how pharmacies are well-equipped to help public health officials and policymakers at all levels of government in providing ready access to countermeasures in the wake of an emergency. The association said it submitted the statement at the request of Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R., Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee.

Specifically, NACDS outlined pharmacy's role in the aftermath of emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic. In those situations, pharmacists performed a variety of health services for patients and worked with state and local partners to ensure access to care.

"The value of community pharmacies in extending the reach of public health has clearly
been recognized by federal officials and state public health officials following their active
participation in the response following Hurricane Katrina and during the 2009 H1N1
influenza pandemic. Pharmacists have performed a range of services to targeted patient populations following emergencies, including dispensing countermeasures, administering vaccines, patient screening and triage, education of the public, and monitoring for adverse events," NACDS said in its statement. "Pharmacies have existing technological infrastructures that can be leveraged to triage patients, have a lot space to accommodate surges in patient demand, and sell personal protective equipment and medical supplies that may also be important in preventing or treating CBRN threats."

Perhaps the greatest strength of pharmacies is their proximity and accessibility, according to NACDS.

"Policymakers should be encouraged to engage the nation's community pharmacies as
primary PODs [points of dispensing] to help extend the reach of public health," the association said in the statement to the subcommittee. "Pharmacists are among the most accessible health providers, and most Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy. In a July 2009 PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey, respondents reported the least amount of difficulty in accessing care from pharmacists.

"Pharmacists also have the advantage of being able to administer vaccinations in all 50 states," NACDS added. "More than 100,000 pharmacists nationwide are qualified to administer vaccinations."

NACDS reported that, overall, 10% of 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccinations were provided in a community pharmacy location.

"Community pharmacies remain committed to assist public health efforts to protect our
citizens through convenient access to countermeasures," the statement concluded. "We look forward to working with Congress and the public health community to ensure the nation’s community pharmacies are used to the greatest extent possible."

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