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Planning for Chronic Disease Medications in Disaster: Perspectives From Patients, Physicians, Pharmacists, and Insurers



Recent US disasters highlight the current imbalance between the high proportion of chronically ill Americans who depend on prescription medications and their lack of medication reserves for disaster preparedness. We examined barriers that Los Angeles County residents with chronic illness experience within the prescription drug procurement system to achieve recommended medication reserves.


A mixed methods design included evaluation of insurance pharmacy benefits, focus group interviews with patients, and key informant interviews with physicians, pharmacists, and insurers.

Results and discussion

Most prescriptions are dispensed as 30-day units through retail pharmacies with refills available after 75% of use, leaving a monthly medication reserve of 7 days. For patients to acquire 14- to 30-day disaster medication reserves, health professionals interviewed supported 60- to 100-day dispensing units. Barriers included restrictive insurance benefits, patients' resistance to mail order, and higher copay-ments. Physicians, pharmacists, and insurers also varied widely in their preparedness planning and collective mutual-aid plans, and most believed pharmacists had the primary responsibility for patients' medication continuity during a disaster.


To strengthen prescription drug continuity in disasters, recommendations include the following: (1) creating flexible drug-dispensing policies to help patients build reserves, (2) training professionals to inform patients about disaster planning, and (3) building collaborative partnerships among system stakeholders.

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