Magazine article Drug Topics

Drug Donations in Humanitarian Aid: A Mixed Blessing

Magazine article Drug Topics

Drug Donations in Humanitarian Aid: A Mixed Blessing

Article excerpt

Immediately after earthquakes struck in Haiti and Japan, vast amounts of medications were donated and shipped to these countries. While these nations were obviously in need of aid and relief, the massive influx of medical products often created a logistical nightmare. Without appropriate guidelines and handling systems in place, many donated drugs were doomed to disposal, generating more work for overtaxed relief workers and wasting important resources.

I touched upon this topic briefly in a previous article about pharmacist humanitarian efforts ["Issues in emergency pharmacy," February 14; http:// bit.ly/emergencypharm], but was glad to revisit it. During the September meeting of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Congress, I took the opportunity to attend a session led by Alexandr Kosyak, a pharmacist from the United States, that enabled me to delve a little further into the issues surrounding medication donations.

When donations are helpful

Our speaker began by describing initial donations received in Port-au-Prince Haiti. Within 10 days of the earthquake, more than 500 metric tons of pharmaceutical products were received at the airport. While guidelines were followed more than usual during this time, there was still a large amount of waste.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has established guidelines for drug donations. The elements required include the following:

* The product's generic or trade name

* The dose or strength per unit,

* The manufacturer's name

* The product's expiration date and batch number.

Donation of pharmaceuticals with less than a year remaining before expiration is generally discouraged. In addition, recipients must state that the donated medication will not be sold or used for commercial purposes and that the medication will not be sold or used for commercial purposes by the receiving party.

The reasons for donating medications vary, the most obvious being the desire to lend a hand. A somewhat more selfserving purpose for donation is to gamer tax credits. Some individuals use the opportunity to get rid of excess or shortdated products. Regardless of motives and intentions, during the initial phases of the recovery process, literally tons of medications are donated.

When appropriate, donations are a valuable resource to the affected nation, providing much-needed therapy to patients, as well as taking the financial burden off patients and local healthcare providers. …

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