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Donating medicines and medical supplies

In this article we discuss donations of medicines and single-use medical supplies
Image of medical face mask, syringe quarter filled with red liquid  and white and red pills on a blue background
© St George’s, University of London

What about medicine and single-use medical supply donations?

Medical equipment is broadly defined as any device that is used to diagnose, treat, monitor or rehabilitate a patient that is not implantable, disposable, or single-use.

Healthcare facilities may request that you donate either medicines, or single-use supplies (e.g. sterile gloves, syringes, suture kits, cannulae).

As Dr Hemming said in the previous step, single-use equipment will not have a long-lasting impact and is not a sustainable solution. However, it can help in the short-term, and, especially if your budget is very limited and the need for supplies is very great, this may be the best option.

In general, many of the issues faced when donating single-use supplies and medical equipment are similar and the principles discussed in this course will be applicable to all types of donations.

Donations of medicines

Good practice for medicine donations is very specific, and the details of this are beyond the scope of this course

The WHO provides guidelines for donation of pharmaceuticals that many international aid agencies follow.

Issues we would like to briefly highlight are:

  • Not all drugs need the same storage: consider whether the medicines you are donating need refrigeration, and whether they will still be usable if there are any breaks in the ‘cold-chain’ during transport.
  • Make sure to include a certificate of donation with instructions on how medicine should be used.
  • Starting a patient on a drug could make the situation worse if they cannot continue to take them after your supply has run out.
  • Giving a patient expired or returned medicine would not be acceptable in high-resource settings like the UK – therefore it is unacceptable in low-resource settings. If you want to source medicine for a donation use a charity (e.g. International Health Partners) or a not-for profit wholesaler (e.g. Durbin PLC).

You may be wondering about the donation of masks and other personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic – we will cover this at the end of the course.

© St George’s, University of London
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Medical Equipment Donations to Low Resource Settings

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