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Pills to Africa: how to donate effectively

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1315
  1. John H Day (,
  2. Christopher B D Lavy, consultant orthopaedic surgeon (
  1. Aurum Health Research, PO Box 87, Welkom, 9460, South Africa
  2. Malawi Against Physical Disability, PO Box 256, Blantyre, Malawi

    It's amazing what you can find in the pharmacy of a rural mission hospital in Africa. Many are heavily dependent on the generosity of supporters in the northern hemisphere for valuable supplies of antibiotics, diuretics, and oral hypoglycaemic agents. Unfortunately, well intentioned, but inappropriate donating can also turn developing world hospitals into dumping zones for pharmaceutical junk, sent on the basis of “anything must be better than nothing.”

    Guidelines for responsible donating


    • Ask first before collecting/despatching

    • Seek advice on the best method of transportation and completion of customs declaration form

    • Discuss local policies on expired and near expired items, antibiotics, antivirals, and psychotropic drugs

    • Enclose an itemised list in the official local language, including generic drug names (recipients may not be familiar with trade names) and information on shelf life

    • Recipients

    • Investigate if your country has its own drug donation …

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