Pharmaceutical Companies Join Haiti Efforts with Medicine, Cash

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As Haiti reels from the 7.0 earthquake that devastated its capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday, relief efforts are beginning to make headway. Early estimates suggest as many as 100,000 may have died, and the quake crushed the country's fragile infrastructure and added to its monumental health-care problems. But the world comes together during crises, and the heartbreaking images coming out of Haiti are prompting companies, governments and citizens to donate skills, products, money, and time to help.Private American contributions after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma struck in 2005 totaled $6.47 billion , and American citizens donated nearly $2 billion after the 2004 Asian tsunami. Already, The American Red Cross has raised $8 million via text messages for the Haiti relief efforts. While credit-card companies waive fees on donations and phone carriers permit donations via text messages, the crisis also gives Big Pharma ample opportunity to help relief efforts.

As the crisis deepens, access to clean water, antibiotics, and basic health supplies are top concerns, Giuseppe Annunziata, coordinator of the World Health Organization's emergency response and recovery operations, told Bloomberg: resources that would combat life-threatening diarrhea, measles, and malaria among Haiti's malnourished population.

Cash and Medicine

To provide immediate relief and combat potential long-term problems, the Red Cross and other organizations have been coordinating efforts on the ground and have been in contact with Direct Relief, AmeriCares, and other non-governmental organizations with specialist skills and established disaster-response and coordination processes to coordinate aid from pharmaceutical companies.

Big Pharma quickly responded with cash and medicine donations. Although the logistics have been daunting, the industry has gained experience in recent years, responding to a devastating earthquake in China, a tsunami in Indonesia, and other calamities.

Pfizer (PFE), a representative says, is working with global partners to assess what's needed most in Haiti, most likely antibiotics to fight bacteria and fungal infections, and other medicines as requested. With operations in the neighboring Dominican Republic, Pfizer is in a good position to help and overcome logistical hurdles, the representative says. It has also made a cash donation of undisclosed size and has pledged to match employee contributions.

Increasing Donations as Efforts Unfold

Merck (MRK) says it's making an initial $350,000 cash donation to several organizations, and will match employee contributions, to support the deployment of emergency response units, disaster specialists, blankets, clean water, therapeutic food, medical supplies, and temporary shelter. Merck says it also plans to immediately ship $200,000 of its products, including Coricidin, Lotrimin, Noroxin, Pepcid and other drugs.

GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) support includes a cash donation and sent medicine, mainly oral and topical antibiotics, on the first airlifts into Haiti since the disaster. The company says it will increase donations as the local infrastructure is repaired. Abbott (ABT) has committed to provide $1 million in initial humanitarian aid, including $100,000 in grants to aid partners and donations of nutritional products, antibiotics, rehydration fluids, and other products.

Eli Lilly and Co. (LLY) has pledged $250,000 in cash for short-term relief and longer-term rebuilding efforts and will match up to $250,000 in U.S. employees' contributions, and it will work with first responders, partners, and the military on appropriate donations. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) has shipped medicines to Haiti, primarily antibiotics and pain medicines, and will donate $200,000 and match two-for-one employee contributions in the U.S. AstraZeneca (AZN) donated antibiotic and respiratory medicines and made a donation of $162,500 (£100,000) to the British Red Cross. And Amgen (AMGN) has contributed $2 million to Haiti relief efforts.
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