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Bull World Health Organ. 2010 Dec 1;88(12):922-9. doi: 10.2471/BLT.10.079764. Epub 2010 Aug 27.

To give is better than to receive: compliance with WHO guidelines for drug donations during 2000-2008.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Pharmacy, University of California, 3333 California Street (Suite 420), San Francisco, CA 94118, United States of America.



to assess drug donations in terms of their adherence to the drug donation guidelines put forth by the World Health Organization (WHO).


in 2009 we searched the academic and lay literature - journal articles, media articles and industry and donor web sites - to identify reports about drug donations made from 2000 to 2008. Publications focusing on molecular mechanisms of drug action, general descriptions of guidelines or specific one-time drug donations before 2000 were excluded. For cases with sufficient information, we assessed compliance with each of the 12 articles of WHO's guidelines.


we found 95 articles describing 96 incidents of drug donations between 2000 and 2008. Of these, 50 were made in response to disaster situations, 43 involved the long-term donation of a drug to treat a specific disease and 3 were drug recycling cases. Disaster-related donations were less likely to comply with the guidelines, particularly in terms of meeting the recipient's needs, quality assurance and shelf-life, packaging and labelling, and information management. Recipient countries were burdened with the costs of destroying the drugs received through inappropriate donations. Although long-term donations were more likely to comply with WHO guidelines related to quality assurance and labelling, they did not consistently meet the needs of the recipients. Furthermore, they discouraged local drug production and development.


drug donations can do more harm than good for the recipient countries. Strengthening the structures and systems for coordinating and monitoring drug donations and ensuring that these are driven by recipient needs will improve adherence to the drug donation guidelines set forth by WHO.

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