What if there were a natural disaster or severe terrorist attack that resulted in people being unable to leave their homes?

Here is something scary to think about: What if there were a natural disaster or severe terrorist attack that resulted in people being unable to leave their homes?


If there is ample warning, people can buy enough provisions to last for a while. But obtaining medications is different. It is much more difficult to obtain extra medications that will allow you to store them away for an emergency.


This is a serious problem that is not frequently discussed. It impacts a huge number of people.


Can you imagine running out of your life-saving medications? How could this happen?


For one, a major disaster may make it impossible for drug companies to produce the medication. Remember how worried you were, for yourself or your children, when there was a shortage of the flu vaccine?


Another scenario is the medication is available but you are unable to travel to the pharmacy to get it.


Even if you have enough medications, some of them require refrigeration which may not be available if there is a power outage.


Being without your needed drugs can result in serious consequences.


If you stop taking your heart medications, you could go into heart failure. Discontinuation of a blood thinner may result in the formation of clots. If you are a diabetic and stop taking your insulin, you could go into diabetic coma.


Also, abruptly stopping certain types of medications can result in withdrawal symptoms.


You may want to store a certain number of medications for such emergencies but usually only so many are available. Also, you have to be aware of their expiration date.


Studies have shown that the medical profession and health care agencies failed miserably during and after Hurricane Katrina.


Since then, various state and federal committees have advised the formulation of disaster plans for such emergencies. However, these plans still have a long way to go before they are effective.


The same is true concerning formulating plans on how to make certain that, during these difficult times, people will be able to obtain much-needed medications.


I don't enjoy writing about serious problems such as this without presenting a solution. But in this case, thus far, there is no solution.


Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.