The Strategic National Stockpile: Key to Protecting the Nation’s Health

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When disaster strikes, CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is prepared to provide medicine and medical supplies to any affected area within the United States and its territories on a moment’s notice. The SNS serves as the nation’s repository of medicines and supplies for use if there is a public health emergency, such as a terrorist attack, flu outbreak, or natural disaster, severe enough to cause local supplies to run out. The repository is designed to supplement or re-supply state and local public health agencies when needed.

The SNS is organized for flexible response, and its role is constantly evolving so that CDC can continue to protect the nation’s health.

Supporting Supply Chain Management and Quality

In the 17 years since Congress authorized the SNS, originally named the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile, CDC has learned a considerable amount about response operations involving medical countermeasures (medicine and medical supplies that can prevent or treat diseases related to a public health emergency). While storing and deploying medical countermeasures are critical roles and often the most visible outcome of SNS activities, they are just part of the larger medical supply chain spectrum, which includes:

  • Identifying the right products to address specific public health threats,
  • Manufacturing and distributing pharmaceutical products, and
  • Ensuring that people who need these products receive them when and where they are needed.

As part of its supply chain role, the SNS is committed to the highest standards of quality and regularly works with other federal‎ agencies and private industry to ensure that the SNS products that are stored for public health emergencies are safe and ready to use.

Ensuring Ebola-specific Personal Protective Equipment Is AvailableEbola personal protective equipment kits

During both a public health emergency and times of normal operations, CDC provides information about the supply chain to other federal partners, as well as state and local public health officials. This information-sharing has led to guidance on the use of products during a public health emergency and promotes informed decision-making for all partners engaged in a response.

For example, during the Ebola response, CDC monitored local supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and encouraged hospitals, public health, and healthcare coalitions to develop sharing plans during a time when supply was not meeting demand. The SNS coordinated with commercial supply chain partners to identify gaps in PPE and on-hand PPE inventory at U.S. hospitals designated as Ebola Treatment Centers. These hospitals were prioritized for orders and the rapid delivery of key products such as gowns, coveralls, aprons, boot covers, gloves, face shields and disinfecting wipes, in the event the hospitals received an Ebola patient. The SNS also established a small stockpile of Ebola-specific PPE to meet urgent, short-term needs until commercial sources could respond to the demand.

Implementing Mosquito Control and Zika Prevention

Man spraying outside of house in Puerto RicoCDC works with supply chain partners to identify strategies to operate more effectively and efficiently when procuring, storing, and distributing product. These strategies are based upon questions about how much product is needed versus how much is available, which critical locations need it, where to redirect product, and when to release stockpiled material in the United States.

In the wake of the Zika virus outbreak, the SNS is providing immediate vector-control services and preventive supplies for pregnant women to protect themselves from mosquito bites. The SNS has successfully initiated two short-term, overarching contracts for mosquito control efforts in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Guam.  The contracts include mosquito treatments of homes, schools, hospitals, and public places in the affected areas. There are also provisions for truck-mounted aerial spraying, if it is needed.

These contracts also provide some community outreach in the form of educational and consultative services to the communities affected by Zika.  By working with the CDC Foundation and by making direct purchases, the SNS has obtained materials for Zika Prevention Kits – including insect repellent, larvicides, mosquito netting, condoms to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, and educational materials. The SNS is rapidly assembling these materials in reusable bags that can be given to pregnant women. To date, the SNS has sent nearly 7,000 kits to affected areas, and more are planned.

CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile – with its goal of ensuring the right materials reach the right people at the right time – has evolved to become a key player in how both the agency and the larger medical supply chain responds to public health threats in order to safeguard the health security of the United States.

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7 comments on “The Strategic National Stockpile: Key to Protecting the Nation’s Health”

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    Great concept and seeing the magnitude of the coordinated effort- awesome. One Query. what happens to stockpiled medicines, which are never used and come close to expiry date ? A lot of money , going to waste?

    The SNS participates in the Shelf-life Extension Program, established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Defense for large federal stockpiles of pharmaceuticals. When products are nearing expiration, the SNS can submit them to FDA for stability testing if they meet certain standards. If products are found to be stable and safe to use beyond the original manufacturer’s labeled expiration date, they can be extended for an extra 12 to 24 months of shelf life. More testing can lead to even longer extensions. Products that fail FDA testing are removed from SNS inventory.

    Instead of extending expiration dates, why doesn’t the SNS do what we do at the Health System level – Rotate your stock? I’m sure some of these pharmaceuticals and supply items (supply items have expiration dates too) can be used by patients and care givers in the real world. You could even offer incentivized pricing to get health systems to take the product items off your hands so they can be used prior to expiration. SNS stockpiles could be replenished on an ongoing basis rather than in huge lots, thereby reducing the affect on supply and demand in the marketplace.

    The SNS uses lifecycle cost management to make sure that the inventory remains viable for as long as possible. Purchases are made on a staggered basis so everything does not expire at the same time. For certain products, the SNS works with a vendor who manages the inventory, and stock is rotated back into the commercial marketplace and replaced with new product to avoid product expiring on the shelf. However, for the large majority of items, the SNS inventory far exceeds the annual use in the commercial marketplace and these types of rotations are not possible or cost saving. Current regulations do not allow for SNS product to be re-sold.

    Thanks for your inquiry and for reading the Public Health Matters blog. We recommend that you contact CDC-INFO with your question. CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health and safety topics.

    Can you please tell me what role, if any, census data has in the planning / determination of need on both a national and local level?

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Page last reviewed: May 27, 2016
Page last updated: May 27, 2016