Rx Response

The Right (and Wrong) Way to Donate During a Disaster

11.15.13 | By

Guest Post from Erin Mullen, PhRMA Associate VP and Director of Rx Response

Following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, all of us ache for those who have been, and will continue to be, affected by the storm’s toll. It’s a common reaction in the face of disaster to think to ourselves: “what can I do to help?” But it’s worthwhile to exercise caution here – sometimes the actions we take to try and help are not helpful at all. Author Dave Roos has a good piece worth reading, “10 Worst Things to Donate After a Disaster,” that explains some of the unintended consequences of accepting donations. Medicine is number 6 on the list.

As a disaster responder, I have seen many well-intentioned donations that missed the mark. During one hurricane response, I had to sort through boxes of donated medical supplies that came in mixed, unlabeled boxes.  It took hours to sort through what was available, time that could have been better utilized ordering exactly what I needed to fill prescriptions that the patients visiting our clinic actually needed.

Internationally, things get even more complicated. It’s important to understand exactly what is needed. Medications may remain underutilized if they’re ones local providers do not typically use, or in dosage forms that are unfamiliar, or labeled in a language that the providers do not speak. With limited personnel and capacity on the ground, handling unanticipated donations can take focus away from urgent tasks.

For these reasons, the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations has developed principles and standards for appropriate medical donations. I urge those considering donating medicines to read these guidelines, and to consider financial donations to established relief agencies. Monetary donations give the greatest flexibility for relief agencies to get what they need, and allow the responding organizations to procure at least some of their supplies locally, which helps with the economic recovery as well.

Helping those who are suffering is an admirable thing to do, and you can make a difference. Rx Response works with some wonderful NGO’s that could use your help. Please consider donating to the following partners:

Thank you.

 For more information on how you can better prepare yourself for a potential disaster, visit the Rx Response website.


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