The Earthquake in Japan Reminds Us All to be Prepared

Watching the terrible toll of the earthquake in Japan today brings home the fact that we live in a global community.

PhRMA StaffMarch 11, 2011

We live in a global community. Watching the terrible toll of the earthquake in Japan today really brings that home. Needless to say, my thoughts and prayers - like everyone's at PhRMA -- go out to the victims.

The human toll is yet to be fully known, but the physical toll was all too apparent as buildings and roads were washed away. Fortunately, the tidal surge and potential Tsunami seems to have by-passed Hawaii and the surf surge in California and the West Coast seems to be relatively light. Check out the CDC and FEMA for more information on earthquake preparedness.

The next step for Japan will be the hard, complex task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding. It calls to my mind what the people of New Orleans experienced over five years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. There were a lot of lessons about emergency management and rebuilding communities and infrastructure in the wake of a huge natural disaster to be learned from Katrina.

Hopefully, we at PhRMA learned some of those lessons. One clear lesson was how important access to prescription medicines is after a disaster. People in crisis zones, fleeing their homes and waiting in shelters, don't always take their medicines or prescriptions with them when it ' s time to evacuate. Additionally, pharmacies, distribution and supply chains and communication among those in the pharmaceutical supply chain and emergency managers can be disrupted.

Hurricane Katrina led PhRMA along with partners in the generic drug industry, pharmacists, pharmacy owners, hospitals and the American Red Cross and others to create RxResponse. Rx Response is an effort by companies and people in the medicine supply chain to help ensure that the flow of medicines to patients can be quickly and efficiently re-established in the wake of possible disruptions resulting from a natural or man-made disaster or terrorist attack.

Working with state, local and Federal emergency managers, RxResponse now closely monitors emerging potentially dangerous situations - like a major earthquake - and works to provide emergency managers with needed, real-time information about the flow of medicines, and the availability of needed or scarce medicines. One great example of how RxResponse is helping emergency managers is its Emergency Pharmacy Status Reporting tool which keeps them informed as to when pharmacies in an affected area begin to reopen.

Think about it, an open pharmacy not only serves as an indication of an affected area ' s potential recovery, but it also provides emergency managers with more ways to help victims get needed medicines.

There is a lot that emergency managers don't know about how a natural disaster, major accident or terrorist attack will play out. But, because of RxResponse, they can at least have some confidence that the various parts of the pharmaceutical supply chain are actively working to make sure that patients and victims have access to the medicines they need as quickly as possible.

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