Inappropriate drug donations
Drug donations sent to ‘help’ developing countries can actually do more harm than good. Iris Stehmann explores the reasons why and explains what should be done instead
According to the World Health Organization, developing countries already spend 25-66% of their meagre health budgets on pharmaceuticals,1 and it seems that drug donations could ease the financial burden. But giving the wrong drugs to the wrong country can do more harm than good.
Bombarding the developing world with out of date medicines packaged in incomprehensible languages or giving ‘gifts’ of lip balm, haemorrhoid cream, and breast implants can bring despair, waste, suffering, and extra expense, according to an article in the New York Times.2 In 1994, a chartered plane containing a sports soft drink arrived in Zaire to help treat cholera—the drink could be dangerous if given to children. Then, perhaps more ill advised, a Zambian mission hospital received a box of amphetamine based appetite suppressants, which it had to destroy.3
A World Health Organization audit of Albania in 1999 noted that 50% of donated drugs were inappropriate or