Medicines and Floods

Medicine Matters by Teodoro B. Padilla

Posted at Aug 21 2013 04:36 PM | Updated as of Aug 22 2013 12:39 AM

In less than two weeks, the country faced three disastrous events that claimed the lives of hundreds of our countrymen.

On August 9, typhoon Labuyo pummeled several provinces in Luzon specifically Aurora, Pangasinan, Isabela, Zambales and Ifugao. Other provinces in the Visayas such as Cebu and Camarines Norte were also battered by the typhoon that killed 11 people and affected close to 400,000 people.

A week after, a passenger vessel and a cargo ship collided in Talisay City, Cebu. More than a hundred people were reported either killed or missing on August 16.

This week, the Southwest Monsoon, enhanced by tropical storm “Maring,” is bringing heavy rains and flooding in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. About 60 percent of Metro Manila was submerged in floodwaters, prompting the suspension of classes and work in the government.

At least eight people perished while more than half a million people were affected by this weather occurrence.

Government and private sector partners have mobilized resources to aid victims of these tragic events. For one, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), through the PHAPCares Foundation, has initially offered P3.8 million worth of medicines for the victims to complement government resources.
Humanitarian missions are being readied with partners like the DZMM-Teaching Learning and Caring and the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity of the University of the Philippines- College of Medicine, among others.

The three natural and man-made events highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness. In preparing for natural calamities, experts emphasize the need to be aware of the community’s emergency plans, evacuation routes, and any potential hazards at home.

As for emergency supplies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that families must make sure that they have non-perishable food and water that will last for three to five days. Also in the list are sleeping bags or extra blankets, water-purifying supplies, personal hygiene supplies, flashlights and batteries among others.

Part of a comprehensive disaster plan is ensuring the supply of lifesaving medicines. The pharmaceutical sector invests heavily on ensuring that the supply chain is protected until medicines reach the patients. Following research and development (R&D), the pharmaceutical sector strictly adheres to Good Storage Practices (GSP) and Good Distribution Practices (GDP) among others.

The reason for this is unlike many consumer goods, medicines are sensitive to external forces including temperature. In some instances, these external stimulants lead to superficial changes like discoloration. In other cases, the non-proper handling and storage of drugs may affect the medicine’s efficacy and/or potency.

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that when medicines are exposed to excessive heat, it would be best to replace it. On the other hand, the medication can still be used until replacement is available if the lifesaving medication in its container looks normal.

Meanwhile, medicines may be exposed to unsafe or contaminated water when there are floods. When contaminated, these medicines and other similar items can have serious health repercussions.

Such medicines, even those in their original or alternative storage containers, must be discarded. These include medicine capsules, tablets, and liquids in drug containers with screw-top caps, snap lids, or droppers.

For lifesaving drugs exposed to water, it may be used if the pills are dry and only the container is contaminated. Such pills may be used until a replacement is available. Any wet pill must be discarded.

For reconstituted medicines, the FDA stressed that “the drug should only be reconstituted with purified or bottled water.” It added that liquids other than water should not be used to reconstitute such products.

Power outages are common during typhoons that bring strong wind. Some medicines such as insulin, somatropin and drugs that have been reconstituted require refrigeration.

If the pharmaceutical product is absolutely necessary to sustain life, it may be used until there is replacement. They should be replaced with a new supply at the soonest possible time since temperature-sensitive drugs lose potency if not refrigerated.
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