For some, prescription medication is a matter of life or death. If you have a medical condition that requires you to regularly take medication, you should consider having an extra reserve of those essential drugs.
Good reasons to stock up on medications
During a disaster you may find it hard to refill a prescription. Medical facilities may be overwhelmed and pharmacies may have limited hours of service and depleted supplies.
Shipping or production of medications may be disrupted. During the early days of the COVID crisis, many drugs and vitamins were in short supply because production in China was drastically reduced.
Your surplus drug supply is like a rainy day fund. If you lose your job or face other financial hardship, you’ll be glad you have some extra medication put aside. It’ll be one less thing for you to stress about.
How much should you stock up?
I think the minimum you should have in reserve is a 6 week supply. Most drug shortages are resolved in 4-6 weeks. But if you are also stockpiling as a cushion from a financial crisis or other long-term crisis, you may want to have a supply that lasts three months or more.
Any reserve more than six months can become
problematic. The biggest concern is the shelf life of the medication. Most medications expire within a year, and if storage conditions are not ideal, they could lose their potency much sooner than that.
If you decide to store enough medication for six months or more, please be very attentive to the storage conditions and expiration dates.
If you decide to stockpile medication, please remember these guidelines:
- Do not stockpile by skipping a day or two of your medication. Your doctor has determined the best dose and frequency for optimal health outcomes. Skipping one or more dosages can possibly threaten your health.
- Be aware of expiration dates. Clearly mark the date of purchase and know when the medication will expire. Rotate medications, always using the oldest first.
- Keep medications in their original bottles so that you know the date of purchase, any precautions and the dosage and frequency.
- Store medications in a child-proof storage container and protect from moisture, heat and light.
Just like food, the biggest enemies of your medication are light, heat and moisture.
- All medications should be stored in airtight containers to keep out moisture.
- Store in a dark closet or a container that will block light.
- Keep medications at 70° or cooler.
Start with your Doctor
Start by talking to your doctor. Explain that you have a philosophy of preparing for disasters and that you want to ensure you will have a good supply of your medication in case of an emergency and you’d like his support.
You’ll also want to include the pharmacist in this conversation. Pharmacists have to abide by strict regulations and if they think you are abusing medication, they are required to report it. Avoid the hassle of meddlesome regulations by enlisting cooperation from your doctor and pharmacist.
Dealing with the Insurance
Now insurance can be the really tricky part. Insurance companies closely monitor and control how much you can buy and how often. They can limit how much you can stockpile by denying payment when you exceed their limits. Here are some ways to get around insurance restrictions:
- Know the early refill policies. Insurance will allow you to refill a prescription anywhere from 3-10 days early. That’s an extra week’s supply of medication. But be careful. The insurance monitors these early refills and will alert the pharmacist to possible stockpiling abuse. That’s one reason why it’s best to discuss your plans with your doctor and pharmacist.
- Some insurance companies will override the refill schedule for those who are on vacation and forgot their meds. Ask your doctor if he can write a vacation prescription for a 30-day supply.
- Insurance companies have a similar policy for lost medication, like when your child gets into the medicine cabinet and flushes your meds. Or if you can’t find your prescription bottle. Usually the maximum you can get with an override like this is two weeks. You will not be able to use this override more than once or twice a year.
- Ask your doctor if he can give you an extra supply from their stock of free samples. Be sure to date these and include dosage and frequency on the package.
- Bypass the insurance. This may just be the easiest method of all, especially if your medication is a low-cost generic. Ask your doctor to write a extra prescription that you just pay for out of pocket.
If your health depends on prescription meds, give serious thought to acquiring a surplus supply. It will require a conscientious oversight of your supplies, but the peace of mind you get from it is worth the effort.