Haiti: A Beacon of Hope Through the Rubble

Contributed by:

Kelly Markham

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The pharmaceutical and biotech industry is one built upon the foundations of human fragility. It is a business of identifying physiological weaknesses and developing the medicines and products to address those faults, thus resulting in an enhanced standard of living and optimum health for the human race. It is a profession with the power to reach the farthest corners of the Earth, a brilliant beacon of hope in the dark abyss of despair. Despite the negative reporting so often associated with industry profits, over the course of the past four months, these corporations have quietly acted on the compassion that compels the industry, the aspiration to aid those in need. On Jan. 12, 2010, tragedy struck Haiti in the form of a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake. This earthquake was the worst natural disaster to strike the Western Hemisphere in the past century, killing more than 220,000 people, injuring more than 300,000, and causing up to 4,000 amputations. Three million people, or 30% of the population, have been affected; almost 1.3 million people are living in temporary shelters in more than 400 sites in the Port-au-Prince area, while more than 600,000 have moved to outlying areas, including some 300,000 children. Total value of damages and losses from this quake are estimated at $7.86 billion, 120% of Haiti’s GDP in 2009. More than 4,300 education facilities and 50 hospitals and health centers have been rendered unusable. The pharmaceutical industry was quick to provide essential resources for those in need, including medicines, medical supplies, personnel, and cash donations. “The vital role of pharma companies and their employees in the global community is clearly defined by such catastrophic situations,” says Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). “It’s our civic responsibility to provide healthcare professionals the tools they need to help save lives, and we’re proud to take part in this effort, which will lead to the eventual recovery of Haiti.” The companies worked in conjunction with disaster relief organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Red Cross to implement their relief efforts. “The recent earthquake has had a devastating impact on Haiti’s limited healthcare system, which was already facing significant challenges,” says Catherine Babington, president of the Abbott Fund. “Building on our existing partnerships with humanitarian organizations in Haiti, we are providing funding and product donations to help address the immense and immediate health needs.” Abbott, a global broad-based healthcare company, donated $2.5 million in grant funding and donations of pharmaceutical and nutritional products in its effort to aid the victims of the natural disaster. Included in the company’s donation are antibiotics and rehydration solutions critical to the efforts being exerted in the devastated country. Abbott has provided more then $34 million in grants and medicines to Haiti. The diversity of the corporations within the pharmaceutical and biotech industry is allowing for a wide array of product donations. Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the acquisition, development, and commercialization of branded prescription products, contributed 15,000 vials of Caldolor Injection, an intravenous form of ibuprofen. “As we learn more about the devastation this quake has caused, as well as the conditions aid workers are facing, it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to ease this suffering,” says A.J. Kazimi, CEO of Cumberland. “We are hopeful the donation of Caldolor will be especially relevant in light of mounting public health concerns about the outbreak of disease and the lack of adequate medical facilities and supplies.” This medicine is intended to reduce fever that results from disease and infection, both of which are increasingly threatening as health conditions in Haiti continue to deteriorate. Medco Health Solutions Inc., a pharmacy benefit manager, is supplying generic medicines identified as critical by relief organizations, including antibiotics, cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, diabetes, gastrointestinal, and vitamins. “We are deeply saddened by this disaster, and our hearts and hands reach out to the millions of victims and their families,” says David Snow Jr., Medco chairman and CEO. “Medco employees are eager to contribute to the relief effort, and as a company dedicated to providing advanced pharmacy care to more than 60 million members, we are working together to share our unique skills and resources to help those who have survived this tragedy.” The employees of these companies have also responded to the cry for help. Company employees have generously donated their time, skills, and individual funds to provide assistance to the victims of the earthquake. Medco, for example, is organizing employee volunteers to travel to Haiti, and the company is offering to match employee donations. Eli Lilly and Co. and Amgen have also announced they will match the donations of their employees. “The significant number of casualties and widespread property damage require an urgent and compassionate response,” says Robert Smith, president of the Lilly Foundation. “We hope Lilly’s contributions will help ease some of the suffering and aid in the recovery efforts.” Lilly, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, will contribute $250,000 to be divided up and paid out short term and over the course of the next year. The company will also provide much needed medicines. Amgen, a human therapeutics company in the biotechnological industry, bequeathed $2 million to the disaster relief efforts. “The contributions are expressions of our sincere sympathy for those directly affected by this tragedy,” says Kevin Sharer, Amgen’s chairman and CEO. The traditional forms of money donations were not absent from the plethora of charitable acts. King Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical company that develops novel branded prescription pharmaceutical products and technologies, provided the Red Cross with a $200,000 donation to assist its efforts. GlaxoSmithKline, a leading pharmaceutical company, announced its plan to send to Haiti much needed medicines, vaccines, and consumer health products. It has also made a donation of $408,000 to the British Red Cross for the provision of water and sanitation Other companies that have generously provided relief to the victims in Haiti include: Astellas Pharma, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Lundbeck, Merck, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk, Otsuka America, Pfizer Purdue Pharma, Sanofi-Aventis U.S., Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, and Talecris. These corporations deserve to be recognized for their valiant efforts and charitable contributions. They are in the business to alleviate suffering and pain, and that is exactly what their efforts helped to do. Despite the allegations so frequently thrown at them, the pharmaceutical and biotech industry has made a clear demonstration of their essential mission, improving the lives of people world wide through innovative medicines and products. They have selflessly donated their time and resources in order to make the world and the lives of those who inhabit it, just a little bit brighter.F Editor’s Note: PharmaVOICE would like to thank Kelly Markham for her insights on this topic and wish her continued success as she continues her academic pursuits next year at the University of Maryland. PharmaVOICE would also like to acknowledge that this is just a small sampling of the philanthropic efforts being put forth by the hundreds and hundreds of life-sciences companies. If you would like to tell us what your organization is doing, please send an e-mail to feedback@pharmavoice.com, subject line: philanthropic efforts. Giving Back… Catherine V. Babington. President, Abbott Fund, a philanthropic foundation established by Abbott with a mission to create a healthier global community by investing in ideas that promote science, expand access to healthcare, and strengthen communities worldwide. For more information, visit abbott-fund.org. A.J. Kazimi. Chairman and CEO, Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the acquisition, development, and commercialization of branded prescription products. For more information, visit cumberlandpharma.com. Kevin W. Sharer. Chairman, CEO, and President, Amgen Inc., a leading human therapeutics company in the biotech industry. For more information, visit amgen.com. Robert L. Smith. President, Lilly Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the lives of patients and communities. For more information, visit lilly.com/responsibility/foundation. David B. Snow Jr. Chairman and CEO, Medco Health Solutions Inc., a leading pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). For more information, visit medco.com. Billy Tauzin. President and CEO, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents the country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies. For more information, visit phrma.org.

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