E-drug: USA Today on donations (cont)
Thanks to Kirsten Myhr for circulating the USA Today story which,
unfortunately, applauded donations of leftover drugs. USA Today's
circulation is over two million -- twice that of the New York Times
-- so it seems worthwhile to speak out hoping to change their view.
We sent the following letter yesterday.
Editor, USA Today: Greg Barrett's March 13th story about people who
collect leftover medicines to give to clinics abroad is both touching
and troubling. The safety of the practice is open to serious
question, but even more important, the story raises a far more
troubling question. How is
it that private acts of compassion are taking the place of serious health
policy? Clearly, people who collect leftover drugs for the poor are well
motivated. But it is equally clear that without extensive testing,
no one, not even a doctor, can assure that leftover medicines aren't
contaminated, adulterated, sub-potent or even toxic. A pharmacist
who dispensed returned drugs could lose the right to practice.
Indeed the report on donations to Bosnia cited by Mr. Barrett
censures returned drugs. The key problem, the researchers found,
was the delivery of unsorted consignments of partially used
medicines collected from private individuals, health professionals
or health facilities and sent
unaccompanied, without prior notification, by non-professional people
By contrast, they wrote, of 13,200 tons of drugs from professional
health relief organizations, "95% per considered appropriate." To
discourage donation of returned drugs, the World Health Organization
guidelines disallow them. Responsible relief and development agencies
and pharmaceutical firms endorse the guidelines and adhere to
policies consistent with them.
Last year alone, members of the Partnership for Quality Medical
Donations gave medicines worth over $630 million for their overseas
development and emergency relief projects. People who wish to
advocate improvement in these matters should consider two actions:
(1) Make regular cash donations to recognized charities that
send needed, essential and FDA-approved medicines to support medical
teams in the developing world;
(2) Demand that the developed nations make medicines a new
instrument of foreign policy, setting up health care development
programs in partnership with private organizations and local
governments. The benefits of such actions would be breathtaking.
James B. Russo
The Partnership for Quality Medical Donations
146 Koenig Road
Bernville, PA 19506
610 488 8303
610 488 7036 (fax)
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