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    How to Stockpile Medication and Maximize its Shelf Life

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    How to Stockpile Medication and Maximize its Shelf Life

    Modern medicine depends heavily on the availability of modern pharmaceuticals, as evidenced by our expectations when we visit the doctor. We don’t go, expecting the doctor to break some evil curse that has been placed on us or to bleed us with leaches.

    Rather, we go with the understanding that the doctor will write us a prescription for medicine which will help make us better. Granted, there are things that medicine won’t work for; but for most medical conditions we can suffer, medicine is at least part of the solution, if not the whole solution.

    The number of US adults who take at least one prescription per day has risen to over 70%. These are primarily maintenance medications, needed to keep our body’s chemicals in balance. It can be said that many of these cases are weight-related or due in some other way to the individual not taking care of their own health. Nevertheless, the medical professionals who prescribed these medications were convinced that their patients needed them, so as to maintain their health.

    Perhaps things were different 100 years ago; but we’re not living then, we’re living now. Our modern sedentary lifestyle, with most of us sitting in front of a computer to work, doesn’t help us maintain our weight low or receive sufficient exercise through the course of our work day. Nor do we eat as nutritious food as our ancestors did, adding to the obesity epidemic that has struck our nation.

    All this has severe survival implications. Perhaps some of us could survive just fine without some of our medications, especially if survival forces us into a better diet, causing us to lose weight. But we don’t know that for sure. It’s an awful big gamble to assume that you won’t need your blood pressure medicine or diabetes meds when everything falls apart and you can’t get them anymore.

    So, what should you do?

    The obvious solution is to stockpile medications, just like we do everything else. If we stockpile powdered milk and sugar, because we need them to survive, then it makes just as much sense to stockpile antibiotics and blood pressure meds so that we can survive. The only difference is that it might be a bit harder to get your hands on the necessary medications.

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    Buying Medications to Stockpile

    Buying medicines for your stockpile is a bit more complicated than buying beans and rice. After all, the last I checked you didn’t need a prescription for buying beans or rice. But you do need a prescription for buying a long list of medicines, especially here in the United States. That doesn’t mean that it is impossible for us to buy those medicines; but it’s likely that we will have to go through a bit more work to do so.

    One of the big questions you face, is just how much medicine to stockpile. Your doctor will probably tell you that you should have three days’ worth, at a minimum. But that’s operating under the assumption that you will be able to get resupplied easily, if you need to.

    From a prepping viewpoint, you should treat those medicines like anything else – figure out your worst-case scenario and how much medicine you’ll need for that time and double it. That’s a much more reasonable figure, if you can do it (you may not be able to). 

    If you are going to stockpile your own antibiotics, you need to make sure you have printed out good information about which ones work best for which infections and how much dosage to take. We are experiencing some problems with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in this country, mostly due to overuse of antibiotics.

    So, you want to make sure that you need to take them, if you do. Don’t take them “just in case” unless a doctor has told you to, such as after surgery.

    Start with Over-the-Counter Meds

    Before worrying about prescription medicines, make sure that you’ve got a good stock of those things you can buy over-the-counter. They probably won’t help with the more serious things that you need prescription medicines for; but there’s no reason to take something that requires a prescription, if there’s something milder which will take care of the problem. In other words, don’t take Darvocet or Codeine for pain, when ibuprofen will do.

    So, what sorts of over-the counter medicines do we need to make sure we have? A good starting point is the following, which will take care of a lot of situations.

    If you have children, especially small children, make sure that you buy children’s aspirin or Tylenol. Any parent knows that you can go through a lot of that, especially considering that it is sold in such small bottles. You’re children will be better off if you have too much, rather than not having enough.

    Avoid buying large quantities of any of these at one time, unless you catch them on sale. Anyone in the pharmacy is likely to get suspicious, if you walk up to the counter with 12 large bottles of Tylenol at one time.

    Get Your Doctor Involved

    While those over-the-counter medicines will take care of a lot of situations, you can’t count on them to replace your prescription medicines or antibiotics. I mentioned them first, because we don’t want to be using prescription medicines when we don’t need to. If something is available over-the-counter to take care of a particular need, it’s best to use that, saving the prescription medicine for when it is needed.

    Your first step in getting additional prescription medicines to stockpile is to co-opt your family doctor in the process. Most doctors are understanding and willing to help with prescriptions for chronic conditions, especially if their patient’s medications and dosages are stable. While they probably won’t write you a prescription for an extra year’s worth of blood pressure medicine, they’ll gladly write you one for a month’s worth.

    Just because you have that prescription doesn’t mean that you’re out of the woods though. The next hurdle to overcome is your health insurance. Most health insurance plans include fairly generous coverage for prescription medicines.

    However, the insurance companies keep close track of just how much medicine the doctor prescribes. They won’t pay for extra medicine, leaving you in the position of having to pay for that medicine yourself. That can be rather expensive.

    Your doctor might be able to help you here as well. The more expensive medications are the newer ones, where the patent on the medication hasn’t run out yet. Once those patents do run out, the price of the meds drops dramatically.

    For example, Lisinopril, a common medication for high blood pressure, is rather inexpensive now (about $15 per month), because it has been out so long. Even if this isn’t the medication your doctor normally prescribes for your high blood pressure, they may be willing to prescribe it as an emergency backup, allowing you to buy something for emergencies, without breaking the bank.

    Another thing that your family doctor may be able to do for you is provide you with samples. Pharmaceutical companies regularly provide doctors with boxes of samples of their wares, trying to get the doctors to give those out to their patients. Some do and some don’t; so, if your doctor is not big on giving those out, he might have a closet full somewhere.

    While you are dealing with your doctor, discuss the option of keeping an epi-pen on-hand. The epi-pen is an automatic syringe that contains epinephrin. It is used to treat anaphylactic shock from allergies. If anyone has a severe allergy, and is exposed to that allergen, this may be the only thing that keeps them alive. Just make sure you get proper training, so that you know when and how to administer it.

    There is a small loophole with insurance, which some people are able to use. This loophole appears when people have to change insurance companies or are switching from your employer’s insurance to Medicare upon retirement. If requires getting all prescriptions filled the last month before the old insurance runs out, preferably getting three-months’ worth of the medications.

    Then, once the insurance is switched over, get an appointment with your new doctor as quickly as possible and get them to write you new prescriptions. You should end up with two extra months’ worth of your prescription medicines, which can be used as your emergency reserve.

    Buy Medications Online

    Another option to consider is buying prescription medicines online, at least for your prescription medicines. There are more and more online pharmacies, which will provide you not only with the medicines you’re looking for, but also offer consultations with a doctor, who can write you the prescription. There’s nothing to prevent you from getting a prescription from your own doctor and then getting the prescription again through one of these services.

    This type of service started out by providing medications for ED (erectile difficulty); Viagra and the others. It is probably due to the profitability of providing those medicines, that these online pharmacies are proliferating.

    A search for “buying medicines without a prescription” will provide you with several companies that will provide consultations and medicines. Take care with these companies though, as not all are honest. The FDA provides some excellent information about how to protect yourself from online pharmacies at.

    Mark Cuban, of Shark Tank fame, has even started an online pharmacy, called Cost Plus Drug Company, with severely reduced prices, for the apparent purpose of providing medicines at reasonable prices. While they do not have everything, they do carry most of the more common pharmaceuticals. One of the things that makes this believable as an honest company to buy from, is that they require a prescription from your doctor, rather than providing you with a prescription.

    Another new pharmacy which has cropped up online, that seems to be made just for preppers, is Jase Medical. They offer two different packages, helping people to be prepared for emergencies. One is a backup prescription supply, which gives you a tailored reserve of your current medications, for the particular purpose of avoiding shortages.

    The other is a kit of emergency antibiotics and emergency medications that is customized for you, based on your likely needs, but not based on any current prescription. As best as I can tell, this is one of the few legitimate sources of emergency antibiotics.

    Buy Medications in Mexico

    If you happen to live anywhere near Mexico, you might want to consider a trip south of the border to buy your medications. The Mexican pharmaceutical industry is excellent, providing pretty much all of the medicines we can buy here, as long as they are not still under patent. Many thousands of retired people, on Medicare, go to Mexico once a year to buy all their medications for the year, as that’s cheaper for them, then getting them locally, even with the help of Medicare.

    While there are still some medications which you will have to have a prescription for to buy them in Mexico, those typically aren’t the kinds that people take for chronic conditions like high cholesterol or blood pressure. Rather, they are psychotropic medicines or narcotics. If you go to a pharmacy on the border, they will know what you can take back to the United States and what you can’t, as they do a lot of business with those aforementioned retired folk.

    One of the great things about these pharmacies is that you can buy common antibiotics, like amoxicillin and azithromycin there, in bottles of 100. Antibiotics are one of the things that is usually harder to buy here, but not in Mexico. The price is great, the quality is equivalent to our generics and buying them in larger bottles like that is convenient for storage. 

    There are a lot of people who are afraid to go to Mexico, due to the violence that has happened there with the drug cartels. I’d recommend going to a small town, called “Nuevo Progresso,” which is across the border from Progresso, Texas (a border town in the Rio Grande Valley, south of and between the towns of Weslaco and Mercedes).

    Nuevo Progresso has not been plagued by the violence that has happened in other cities, and there are pharmacies you can go to, which are within a block of the bridge. Walk across, rather than drive, as it is easier to get back to the US side that way.

    Alternative Antibiotics

    Another way that people have managed to purchase antibiotics without a prescription, here in the United States, is by buying veterinary grades of those antibiotics. In many cases, those veterinary grades are manufactured in the same plants as the ones we buy for ourselves; they’re just packaged and labeled differently. If that is the case, they should be safe to use.

    Some of the more common ones are:

    • FISH-MOX is Amoxicillin 250mg
    • FISH-MOX FORTE is Amoxicillin 500mg
    • FISH-FLEX is Keflex 250mg
    • FISH-FLEX FORTE is Keflex 500mg
    • FISH-ZOLE is Metronidazole 250mg
    • FISH-PEN is Penicillin 250mg
    • FISH-PEN FORTE is Penicillin 500mg

    Consider a Natural Alternative

    Finally, another thing to consider is the use of natural alternatives, when pharmaceuticals run out. Our modern pharmaceutical industry started out from studying plants with medicinal qualities. Even today, much of their research is involved in finding things in nature which can be used to treat various conditions and then developing artificial ways to create those substances.

    Just look in any natural food store and you’ll see rows and rows of herbal medicines. You’ll also find books, teaching you which plants can be used to treat which conditions. I’m no expert on this area, so I won’t make any recommendations, other than to say that herbal medicine is a good backup for our other medicines.

    Storing Medications to Prolong Shelf-life

    We’ve talked about buying medicines; but once you get those medicines, they’ll only last so long, right? Well, maybe not as right as we think. The “expiration dates” put on medicines are not really expiration dates. Rather, they are the last date that the manufacturer will guarantee that those drugs are good.

    At a minimum, those medicines will last two to three years beyond the date on the package. In many cases, nobody really knows just how long they will last. I have had antibiotics that I purchased in Mexico, which were still potent and I was still able to use, five years after buying them.

    Medicines are unlikely to be attacked by rodents, insects and bacteria, like food is. But they are still susceptible to chemical breakdown from oxygen, heat and moisture. To keep them fresh, they should always be kept in airtight containers; preferably the airtight package they shipped from the factory in.

    I would go a step further than that and put the airtight packages in an airtight package, either vacuum sealing them or putting them together in a box with a rubber seal. If they don’t already have moisture absorbers in the package, add them, keeping moisture out of the package. Once packaged, they should be kept in a cool, dry place.

    For longevity’s sake, it’s better to have medicines in pill form, rather than liquid. The liquid forms of some medications can dry up, crystalize or the ingredients can separate. Keep a mortar and pestle on-hand, so that you can grind up any liquid medications which have dried, rehydrating them. That can also be used to grind up medications to be given to someone who is unconscious.

    Another problem with the liquid form of medications is that they often need refrigeration. That’s not a problem, as long as there is electrical power. But what if the electric power goes out? One way to keep them cool in such a time is to store them in a root cellar.

    Another option is in a Zeer Pot, if one is available. If nothing else is available, bag them again in a second bag and submerge them in the toilet tank (not the toilet bowl). That will keep them 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature.

    Be sure to label all medications that you are storing, including who is supposed to be taking it, along with their dosage and frequency. In the case of illness or injury, someone else might have to administer the drugs and it might not be possible to verbally give them directions.

    While medications will keep for at least a couple of years past their expiration date, you don’t want to count on them keeping forever. Rather, you need to rotate your stock, replacing your medications every couple of years.

    If they are meds that you take regularly, this is easy, as you can just use the old ones and save the new prescription. But if not, you may have to start over, buying fresh medicines and disposing of the old ones.

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