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Pharmacy Personnel Needed for Bioterrorism Response Teams

Cheryl A. Thompson

One of the lessons learned from the anthrax attacks of fall 2001 is that the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) cannot act as the sole provider of emergency responders, Rear Admiral John T. Babb told attendees of ASHP Summer Meeting 2002 in Baltimore. After a large-scale bioterrorism event, he said, the federal government will need help from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pharmacists and nurses to protect civilians from the medical consequences of the attack.

To meet part of that need, the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners has agreed to sponsor one National Pharmacist Response Team from each of PHS’s 10 regions, Babb said. Pharmacists, pharmacy students, and pharmacy technicians whose team is called to duty will be federalized—provided with professional liability coverage and recognition of active licensure regardless of state of origin—and paid a salary. Also, travel and housing expenses will be reimbursed.

Nurses will similarly be organized in teams sponsored by the American Nurses Association.

The health professional teams will be trained to provide mass chemoprophylaxis and vaccination after an act of terrorism anywhere in the country. Teams will represent the 10 PHS regions, which are based in the following cities: Boston (region I), New York (II), Philadelphia (III), Atlanta (IV), Chicago (V), Dallas (VI), Kansas City, Missouri (VII), Denver (VIII), San Francisco (IX), and Seattle (X).

In addition to the new national response teams, PHS offers pharmacists three ways to participate in emergency preparedness:

  1. Commissioned Corps Readiness Force, a cadre of PHS officers that directs, enhances, and supports federal agencies’ responses to disasters and other public health emergencies (
  2. Disaster Medical Assistance Team, or DMAT, a group of professional and paraprofessional medical personnel that provides emergency medical care during a disaster or other event anywhere in the country ( Specialized DMATs respond to emergencies involving burns, crush injuries, weapons of mass destruction, and mental health.
  3. Planning committee of a Metropolitan Medical Response System ( Some 122 cities have a federal contract to plan for their metropolitan area’s response to biological and chemical terrorism. "Many of these cities," said Babb, "have had little or no pharmacist participation despite the fact that one of their main obligations is to develop and maintain a pharmaceutical cache and a distribution plan."

Pharmacists, pharmacy students, and pharmacy technicians interested in joining a National Pharmacist Response Team should contact Babb (fax, 301-443-3119) and provide their name, street and e-mail addresses, work and home telephone numbers, workplace setting, and professional status (e.g., pharmacist).

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists is a member of the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners.