The United States has experienced and remains vulnerable to many events that cause large numbers of casualties. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent anthrax exposures and deaths also awakened the nation to the threat of homeland terrorist attacks.
As the United States began to enhance counterterrorism measures in response to the homeland terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it became clear that hospital and health-system pharmacists have an essential role in emergency preparedness.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) believes that hospital and health-system pharmacists must assertively exercise their responsibilities in preparing for and responding to disasters, and the leaders of emergency planning at the federal, regional, state, and local levels must call on pharmacists to participate in the full range of issues related to pharmaceuticals. For the purposes of this Statement, disasters include natural disasters (e.g., floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and forest fires); industrial accidents (e.g., explosions, fires, chemical releases, radiation escape from nuclear power plants, and airplane or train crashes); and terrorist attacks with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including biological and chemical agents and radiological, nuclear, and explosive devices.
- On the basis of their education, training, experience, and legal responsibilities, pharmacists should have a key role in the planning and execution of (a) pharmaceutical distribution and control and (b) drug therapy management of patients during disasters.
- The expertise of the pharmacist should be sought in (a) developing guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of casualties and exposed individuals, (b) selecting pharmaceuticals and related supplies for national and regional stockpiles and local emergency inventories in emergency-preparedness programs, (c) ensuring proper packaging, storage, handling, labeling, and dispensing of emergency supplies of pharmaceuticals, (d) ensuring appropriate deployment of emergency supplies of pharmaceuticals, and (e) ensuring appropriate education and counseling of individuals who receive pharmaceuticals from an emergency supply in response to a disaster.
- Pharmacists should be in a position to advise public health officials on appropriate messages to convey to the public about the use of essential pharmaceuticals in response to disasters, giving consideration to issues such as adverse effects, contraindications, the effectiveness of alternative pharmaceuticals, and the potential development of drug-resistant infectious agents.
- In the event of a disaster, pharmacists should be called on to collaborate with physicians and other prescribers in managing the drug therapy of individual victims.
Advice to Hospital and Health-System Pharmacy Directors
Every hospital and health-system pharmacy director (or designee) should
- Become well informed about the local history of and potential for natural disasters and industrial accidents, as well as the threat of terrorist attacks with WMD, including potential agents that could be used and the related diagnostic and treatment issues;
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