BUSINESS
11/01/2012 02:39 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2012

Drugstores Struggle To Fill Prescriptions In Areas Hard-Hit By Hurricane Sandy

Hundreds of drugstores across New York and New Jersey remain closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as pharmacists, corporate chains, independent stores, drugmakers and relief organizations scramble to ensure that patients can access needed medications.

In Hackensack, N.J., pharmacist Danny Nanna said his store, Hackensack Pharmacy, may be the only one filling prescriptions. "We are probably the only pharmacy that has power right now, so it's really crazy here," he told The Huffington Post. "There's still a lot of people who need their medicines."

Many pharmacies, including chains like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, which also operates Duane Reade pharmacies across the New York area, prepared in advance of Hurricane Sandy by stocking up on medicines and supplies.

But drugstores still face significant challenges as the region attempts to recover from the storm. Pharmacist Rupal Shah at Derosa Pharmacy and Home Health in Newark, N.J., is worried about running out of medicines in the coming day. One of her regular wholesale suppliers flooded and another operates out of New York City and may not be able to travel to her store.

Yesterday, only one of her two usual deliveries arrived. "Let's see if my order comes in today," she said. "I am running low."

An industry organization called Rx Response, established by chain drugstores, pharmaceutical companies and other health care groups after Hurricane Katrina, is tracking what pharmacies remain open in the areas affected by the storm, said Eric Cote, a spokesman.

An interactive map on the group's website displays where drugstores are open to fill prescriptions. The organization, in concert with federal, state and local governments, is also watching the drug supply chain for shortages, transportation problems or lack of fuel that may prevent medicine deliveries to retail locations or medical facilities, Cote said. Mobile pharmacies also may be deployed, he said. "That is how the supply chain fills the gap."

Nonprofit organizations such as Direct Relief International also are stepping in to help connect medications to patients and health care providers. Direct Relief International is collecting donated drugs and medical supplies for distribution to clinics and shelters starting today, said Damon Taugher, director of U.S. programs for the charity. Caseworkers with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens are helping senior citizens with a variety of services, including assistance getting medications, a spokeswoman said.

Many pharmacies continue to offer delivery services in storm-struck areas, but that could be stymied not only by impassable roads but by scarce fuel. "Right now, our problem is getting gasoline for our cars," said Matt Ferranti of Nate's Pharmacy in Staten Island, N.Y. The storm destroyed one of the company's five stores, he said.

Walgreens has delivered 200 backup generators to stores that lost power because of the storm but about 200 of the 1,400 locations in the affected area remain shuttered, said Michael Polzin, a spokesman. The company also is assessing where to deploy mobile pharmacies in places where their stores will be closed for an extended period, he said.

Eight Rite Aid stores "sustained substantial damage" because of the storm and 188 were either closed or operating without electricity, according to a press release issued Thursday.

Before visiting a pharmacy, patients should call first to make sure it is open, Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Health, said in an email. When possible, patients should take advantage of mail-order pharmacies because the U.S. Postal Service and United Parcel Service are still making deliveries to affected areas, she added.

Drugstores, hospitals, community health centers, charities and governmental agencies also are working to set up drug dispensaries in shelters and temporary health clinics, said Taucher, of Direct Relief International.

Health insurance companies like UnitedHealth Group and government programs like Medicare have special procedures in place to facilitate people filling prescriptions at pharmacies that are outside their network.

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The Huffington Post is eager for insights from our community, especially people with experience in power, infrastructure and engineering, on the adequacy of emergency preparation in advance of Hurricane Sandy, and the degree to which past disasters have informed adequate planning and construction. Please send a note to sandytips@huffingtonpost.com with insights and suggestions for the important questions that need to be asked of relevant private sector and government officials, and point us toward stories that need to be pursued.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Hurricane Sandy

11/04/2012 12:26 AM EDT

PHOTO: A Marathon Wedding Proposal, Minus The Marathon

HuffPost's Katie Bindley reports:

Like all the competitors who trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon, Hannah Vahaba will not be running the race this year. But she also will never forget her moment at the finish line. After traveling in from Atlanta, Vahaba picked up a marriage proposal in Central Park on Saturday without having to traverse the 26.2-mile course.

"This is my fiance," said Vahaba, 31, who had tears running down her face as she stood in Central Park where the race would have ended, just moments after Martin O'Donoghue had proposed.

marriage proposal cancelled nyc marathon

Photo by Damon Scheleur

Read the full story here.

11/04/2012 12:25 AM EDT

Check Donation Lists

Be sure to check donation lists to see what items are needed. For example, at one Staten Island donation center, there is a critical need for batteries batteries batteries, candles, matches, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, pet food, baby supplies, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner. Clothing isn't needed as much at that center.

-Catharine Smith, HuffPost

11/03/2012 10:42 PM EDT

Brooklyn Regions Still Lack Electricity, Heat and Water Days After Storm

HuffPost's Tim Stenovec reports:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.

Read the full story here.

11/03/2012 10:18 PM EDT

On Long Island, Cuomo demands Accountability from Utilities

Huntington Patch reports:

At a massive food distribution event at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Cuomo said power has been restored to 60 percent of the New York metropolitan area.

LIPA reported Saturday evening that 460,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 900,000 initially.

"I've warned the utility companies repeatedly they operate under a state charter, essentially," Cuomo said. "The utility companies are not happy with my warning and frankly, I don't care."

"The customers are not happy. The bill payers are not happy and the people without power are not happy," Cuomo said. "People are suffering. It is an issue of safety and if the utilities were not prepared we will hold them accountable."

Read the full story on Huntington Patch.

11/03/2012 9:38 PM EDT

Gasoline Shortage Likely To Last For Several More Days

Even as power returns to parts of the region assailed by Hurricane Sandy, millions of drivers seeking gasoline appear likely to face at least several more days of persistent shortages.

Read the full story here.

11/03/2012 8:50 PM EDT

Behind @ConEdison: The 27 Year-Old Preventing Panic, One Tweet At A Time

HuffPost's Bianca Bosker:

On Saturday, 27-year-old Kate Frasca was manning Con Edison’s Twitter account, @ConEdison, responding to customers’ frustrations, questions, praise and criticism at an average clip of one tweet every six minutes.

Read the full story here.

11/03/2012 8:35 PM EDT

Estimate Says 600 Million Gallons Of Water Hit Mass Transit System

@ USACE_HQ :

Roughly 600 M gallons of storm water infiltrated the nation’s busiest and oldest underground mass transit system... http://t.co/5jMXDhRc

11/03/2012 8:15 PM EDT

$12 Million Donated So Far To NYC Mayor's Fund For Recovery

@ MikeBloomberg :

If you would like to donate: visit http://t.co/9w8egqxD So far $12 million has been contributed. 100% of funds go to #Recovery efforts.

11/03/2012 7:52 PM EDT

Don't Touch Downed Power Lines

@ usNWSgov :

Post #Sandy reminders: never touch a downed power line or anything touching one. Washing your hands prevents illness. #NWS #CDC

11/03/2012 7:17 PM EDT

Volunteers Arrive In Staten Island

@ NYCMayorsOffice :

Volunteers Descend on Staten Island Neighborhood http://t.co/9aP3ggJN

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