November 28, 2001
Pharmacists Convene Executive Session
on Emergency Preparedness
National Emergency Planners, Health Care Community Call for Improvements To
Public Health System
- The United States needs a much stronger system for ensuring that the
necessary pharmaceuticals and related services are available for response to
acts of terrorism and other emergencies, according to participants in a
landmark Executive Session on Emergency Preparedness and the Pharmaceutical
Supply Chain, held November 9 in Bethesda, Maryland. The American Society of
Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) convened the session to assess the
strengths and vulnerabilities of the pharmaceutical supply chain in
responding to national emergencies. The summary of the Executive Session,
which is a useful primer on the full dimensions of the issue, is available
online at http://www.ashp.org/ .
Significant weaknesses of the response system that were identified centered
around the need for greater overall coordination of federal, state, and
local emergency planning and response. Specifically, meeting attendees
spotlighted the need for:
* Better coordination among federal and local agencies and organizations
charged with disaster-response responsibilities. For example, it is vital
for local officials to have details on the contents and deployment of the
National Pharmaceutical Stockpile.
* Better inclusion of pharmacists in the emergency-preparedness planning
process to ensure that drugs are properly packaged, labeled, and accompanied
by written product information, and that pharmacists and other health care
professionals are available to take patient medical histories, provide
counsel, and answer questions.
* A system in which the services of volunteer physicians, pharmacists, and
other health professionals can be easily deployed when needed.
"Drug products are central to every aspect of emergency planning," said
Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D., ASHP Executive Vice President and Chief
Executive Officer, "and pharmacists must be involved in ensuring that
emergency plans detail how to disseminate the right medication to the right
Together, the more than 35 participants reviewed the readiness of the
pharmaceutical supply chain and how it would function within federal, state,
and local communities' emergency plans. It was the first such meeting that
brought together representatives from the full spectrum of pharmaceutical
supply, including drug manufacturers, hospitals, pharmacists, and federal
"Hospitals are likely to be on the front-line of a disaster, whether natural
or manmade," said Manasse. "We felt it was important to create a dialog
between those who are planning emergency responses and those who would be
caring for patients and supplying the medications and equipment."
Meeting participants applauded efforts by emergency response teams and
health care professionals, particularly physicians and pharmacists, who
assisted in rescue and triage efforts in New York City and the Washington,
D.C. area on September 11. They also praised hospital pharmacists and drug
distributors and manufacturers for their crisis management skills in
accommodating unusual and urgent needs for medications.
The session also explored other issues such as collaboration between the
private and public sector, education and information sharing, federal
authority, as well as legislative and regulatory activities.
A follow up meeting is planned for early 2002. At that time, specific steps
will be outlined for addressing system vulnerabilities.
ASHP is the 31,000-member national professional association that represents
pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations,
long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care
systems. ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention
efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the
best use of medicines. Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is
ASHP's primary objective. The Society has extensive publishing and
educational programs designed to help members improve their delivery of
pharmaceutical care, and it is the national accrediting organization for
pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.