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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

What is EPAP?

The Emergency Prescription Assistance Program provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment (DME) for eligible individuals in a Federally-identified disaster area.  The program provides a 30-day supply of covered drugs and medical supplies that can be renewed every 30 days for as long as EPAP is active. Currently, over 72,000 pharmacies are enrolled in EPAP.

EPAP allows any enrolled pharmacy in the United States and its territories to use existing electronic pharmacy systems to efficiently process prescriptions and DME for individuals that are eligible for the EPAP. This effort is performed under the authority cited in Sections 403 and 502(a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), 42 USC 5170b and 5192(a) or under the authorities of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to provide emergency medical care to the victims of public health emergencies and catastrophic events that overwhelm the capacity of state and local emergency medical systems to respond to these disasters. Section 2812 of the Public Health Service Act provides that the Secretary may activate the NDMS to “provide health services, health-related social services, other appropriate human services, and appropriate auxiliary services to respond to the needs of victims of a public health emergency (whether or not determined to be a public health emergency under section 319).  EPAP is only available when it is activated.

Why does it matter?

Nearly 70 percent of Americans Exit Icon rely on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two.  Many of these people rely on their medications to control chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes; manage depression; and keep their pain levels in check.  When a disaster strikes, medications can get lost or damaged, putting patients’ health and well-being at risk. 

Making sure that patients are able to continue to access the medications, specific medical supplies, vaccines and durable medical equipment that they rely on every day is an important priority for emergency management.  When disasters strike, emergency rooms fill up quickly – but they aren’t just full of people who have been injured by the disaster directly.  When people’s medication, vaccines, medical supplies or DME get lost or damaged in a disaster, a condition that was previously manageable may become more serious, causing these people to seek care in an emergency room or go without needed care. 

In an emergency, EPAP provides access, at any enrolled pharmacy in the nation or U.S. territories, to certain prescription drugs and limited DME for individuals who were affected by a disaster of national significance and have no other drug or DME coverage.  Patients can get a thirty day supply of their medications.  They can renew their prescription under EPAP every thirty days for as long as EPAP is active.  They can also use the program to replace maintenance prescription drugs, specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment lost as a direct result of the declared emergency or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to the designated shelter facility.  EPAP coverage is limited to written pharmaceutical and DME prescriptions.  This service is available at no cost to the patients.

Ensuring that people are still able to access the medications, specific medical supplies, vaccines and DME that they rely on every day helps patients cope with a disaster more effectively and prevents stress on the healthcare system.  By ensuring that patients have access to specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment (DME) that they rely on to stay healthy, individuals and their communities better able to cope with a disaster.

  • This page last reviewed: October 18, 2016