Medicine donations during natural disasters and other emergency situations are critical but have frequently gone awry. For example, after the Sri Lanka tsunami in 2004, about half of donations were inappropriate collections of unused drugs from private individuals that were transported by international relief organizations.
A research paper by a group of Boston University School of Public Health students and their professor, Richard Laing, recommends improvements to the World Health Organization’s Guidelines for Medicine Donations in order to clarify donation practices, better define who “recipients” are, distinguish between acute and long-term emergencies, and add visual aids such as flowcharts and checklists to improve understanding of the process. The students conducted the research for the global health class, “Analytic Methods for Pharmaceutical Systems Analysis,” and it was published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice. The student authors, all 2015 graduates, are Nuria Cañigueral-Vila, Jennifer C. Chen, and Lindsey Frenkel-Rorden.
The authors say that while some elements of the WHO’s guidelines are “intentionally broad” to allow for situational tailoring, the lack of definition of who a “recipient” is limits the benefits of the guide. By including a definition of appropriate recipients—such as governments, NGOs, and health facilities—the benefits of medicine donations could be enhanced.
“This is especially relevant in scenarios where a government is unstable or there is a severe lack of capacity, and NGOs and/or health facilities are in a position to take on the role of managing a donation,” they write.
Overall, the group found that the principles outlined in the WHO Guidelines for Medicine Donations are clear and concise, but “not particularly practical due to the omission of step-by-step, action-oriented instructions.
“There is room for improvement from two perspectives: from the user’s perspective, these guidelines could include additional tools (e.g., flowcharts, checklists, and pictures) to facilitate the donation process engaged in by donors and recipients; from the reader’s perspective, the guidelines’ structure could be reorganized to improve understanding and make information more digestible,” they write.