Drug makers, suppliers, other health cos donating $15.5 million in supplies and cash for Haiti

By Linda A. Johnson, AP
Friday, January 15, 2010

Health companies giving $15.5M for Haiti relief

TRENTON, N.J. — Drug and medical product makers and other health care companies are pledging to donate at least $15.5 million in cash and products to help victims of Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti.

That amounts to almost one-third of the donations — totaling at least $48 million — announced by corporations and their foundations by Friday afternoon.

Besides donating cash to various relief groups, pharmaceutical companies and medical product makers were preparing or have sent products to treat injured people, as well as medicines for patients who had lost their supply. The industry typically offers such help after a major disaster.

The charitable alliance Partnership for Quality Medical Donations said 10 members had pledged a total of $7.3 million worth of products and $4.6 million in cash. Some of those gifts have not yet been publicly disclosed, as details are still being finalized.

Biotech company Amgen Inc. said it will donate $2 million in cash. Medical supplier Henry Schein is giving $1 million worth of products, major health insurers are giving at least $350,000 and other health companies plan to offer aid but haven’t yet decided its financial value.

Drug store chains also are helping, with $100,000 pledged by Walgreen Co. and $50,000 from Rite Aid Corp.

Lori Warrens, executive director of the partnership, said some members are still figuring out what they’ll give in cash and how much in product.

“People are applying the lessons learned from the (2004 Asian) tsunami and (Hurricane) Katrina. They’ve learned not to move too fast,” she said.

Warrens said the companies are trying to learn which of their products are needed most and ensure there will be appropriate staff in Haiti to deliver and then administer medication.

Pfizer Inc. is supplying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of the blood pressure medication Norvasc, pain killers and the cholesterol drug Lipitor. Spokesman Ray Kerins said the company can move fast because it has an office in the Dominican Republic, which is on the same island as Haiti, and large manufacturing operations in nearby countries.

Merck & Co. is giving $350,000 in cash to help fund emergency response units, blankets, clean water, temporary shelter, food and medical supplies. It plans to ship $200,000 worth of its medicines, including ulcer drug Pepcid, Coricidin cold medicine and ringworm treatment Lotrimin.

“We were on the first airlifts into Haiti,” said Sarah Alspach, a spokeswoman for Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which sent medicines worth roughly $1.2 million — mainly oral and topical antibiotics including Augmentin, plus heartburn antidote Zantac.

“We immediately shipped Johnson & Johnson disaster relief modules with large quantities of our consumer and over-the-counter products,” including Tylenol, Neosporin and bandages, said spokeswoman Carol Goodrich. The company is giving unspecified cash gifts to relief groups.

Drug and device maker Abbott Laboratories said it will provide $1 million worth of cash and pharmaceutical and nutritional products.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. is donating $200,000 and a large amount of antibiotics.

Another $250,000 is coming from Eli Lilly & Co.

Medical technology maker BD is donating $550,000 and will donate up to $500,000 worth of needles, syringes, intravenous catheters and blood collection tubes.

And health insurers UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. donated $150,000 and $100,000, respectively. Cigna Corp. said it’s donating $50,000 and has pledged to match up to $50,000 in employee donations, both to the American Red Cross.

Aetna Inc. said it will expand benefits for staff, plan members and families affected by the earthquake in Haiti, including paying for some medical evacuations.

Warrens said the partnership was urging the public and local charities not to collect unused medications or free drug samples for earthquake victims.

“It’s well-intentioned, but it’s dangerous,” she said, because the medicines might not have been stored properly and might not include instructions essential for safe administration.

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