Long-term medication storage is a vitally important skill for any prepper to master. Whether you have a chronic health condition yourself, or if your loved ones take daily medication, or if you want to be prepared to treat infections and injuries in a SHTF situation, you need to understand the dangers and potential benefits of expired medications.
It is recommended that you store a 30-day supply of any medications that you and your family take on a regular basis. You also want to have a supply of over the counter medications, such as pain relievers and fever reducers.
There are important steps to complete before storing any medication long-term to ensure that the medication is safe to take in an emergency:
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
The first step in emergency medical preparation is to have an open discussion with your doctor. Explain that you are preparing your family for emergency situations and would like an additional prescription that will be going into storage. Many insurance companies will only cover a 30-day supply of any medication, so you may need to pay out of pocket for your emergency stockpile. Ask about generic versions of expensive drugs to save on cost.
SPEAK WITH A PHARMACIST ABOUT LONG-TERM SAFETY OF EVERY DRUG
Although your doctor can help with prescribing medications, you want to talk to an expert in medication about taking anything beyond the expiration date. Studies have shown that many drugs with a 1-2 year shelf-life retain 85-90% potency at the 5-6 year mark. The Shelf Life Extension Program, carried out by the Defense Health Agency, indicates that common antibiotics are good for five years past their expiration date. However, there are some medications that can become toxic after their expiration, especially if stored incorrectly. It is imperative that you understand the risks associated with any medication you are planning to store long-term.
WHAT TO STORE
First, store any medication that you and your loved ones need to treat chronic conditions, as you may not be able to access healthcare in an emergency. Additionally, you will want a supply of antibiotics to treat infections. Cephalexin, Ciprofloxacin, and Metronidazole are the three best antibiotics to store, as alone or in combination they will cover around 90% of common infections, as well as more extreme threats such as anthrax or C. diff. Two other important medications to consider are Potassium Iodide, which is taken during a nuclear event to prevent radiation poisoning, and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), which is an anti-viral to use during a pandemic outbreak. Finally, stock up on over the counter medications you normally keep in your medicine cabinet, from Advil to Benadryl to Imodium. Over the counter medications are the best and most cost-effective way to ensure that you can treat any minor health problems in a survival situation.
STORE THE MEDICATIONS PROPERLY
The key to storing medications long-term is to create the right environment. Medications should be stored in their original containers (dark bottles or blister packs) in a cool, dark, and dry environment. Ask your doctor for pill or tablet medications, as liquids will not last nearly as long as pills. If you want to extend the life of the medications even longer, you can seal the containers in a vacuum pack to preserve effectiveness further. Label everything very clearly so that in the event that you are incapacitated, someone else can administer the medications. Mark bottles with names, doses, and which family member needs the medication. If any of the medicine changes appearance or color, this can be a sign that it is no longer safe to consume.
Both natural and man-made disasters can result in situations where you are unable to access healthcare for extended periods. Stocking up on medications ahead of time using the proper safety precautions can be the difference between life and death when SHTF.