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These guidelines were prepared by the technical divisions of the Pan American Health Organization.
For more information on Drug Donations please contact us



Drug donations, even in emergency situations, may cause problems rather than being helpful if they do not comply with specific principles and guidelines.

The following guidelines reflect a consensus between major international agencies.

Core principles for drug donation
Guidelines for drug donations
Recommendations For Donors
Recommendations For the Recipient Country

Core principles for drug donation:

  • All donations should benefit the recipient
  • Respect for the wishes and authority of the recipient
  • There should not be a double standard in quality
  • Effective communication between the donor and the recipient.

Guidelines for drug donations:

  • All drug donations should be based on an expressed need and be relevant to the disease pattern in the recipient country.
  • All drugs should be approved for use in the recipient country.
  • The presentation, strength and formulation of donated drug should, as much as possible, be similar to those commonly used I he recipient country.
  • All donated drugs should be obtained from a reliable source and comply with quality standards in both: donor and recipient countries.
  • No drug should be donated that have been issued to patients and then returned to a pharmacy or elsewhere.
  • After arrival in the recipient country all donated drugs should have a remaining shelf-life of at least one year.
  • All drugs should be labeled in a language that is easy understood by health professionals in the recipient country.
  • Donated drugs should be presented in larger quantity units and hospital packs.
  • All drug donations should be packed in accordance with international shipping regulations (named by INN, dosage form, quantity, batch number, expiry date, volume, weight and any special storage conditions).
  • Recipients should be informed of all drug donations that are being considered, prepared or actually underway.
  • In the recipient country the declared value of a drug donation should be based upon the wholesale price of its generic equivalent in the recipient country (except for patented drug for which there is no generic equivalent).
  • Cost of international and local transport, warehousing, port clearance and appropriate storage and handling should be paid by the donor agency, unless specifically agreed otherwise with the recipient in advance.

Recommendations For Donors:

  • Drug donations should complement national efforts and meet the country needs. Always consult the official list made by the national authority (or the disaster coordinator) for information on WHAT medicines are needed for that particular country. To donate pharmaceutical products relevant to the disaster or emergency situation may not be enough reason to send them to the country. The country may have them in stock or they may not comply with locally agreed drug policies and standard treatment guidelines. Donations of inappropriate medicines can divert attention from health personnel in sorting, classifying, labeling and, most important, in destroying them.
  • Whenever possible, donate medicines already classified (in their boxes), preferably by therapeutic groups.
  • Pharmaceutical forms as well as presentation are important. To reduce shipments cost and facilitate logistics, whenever possible does not donate drug syrup and mixtures packed in glass containers. (Except for those preparations that must be packed in that kind of containers).

Recommendations For the Recipient Country:

  • In emergency situations, it is common to have many organizations involved in receiving and distributing international donations (mainly NGO’s). It is wise to have an official unit to coordinate them or at least to have access to information on what drugs are being received and where (i.e. health centers) they are being sent.
  • Provide international donors with a list of needed drugs and inform them of updates.
  • Include in the list of needed drugs all necessary devices for administering them such as syringes and needles.
  • In making the list of needed drugs, make a specific provision for controlled medicines and follows the WHO guidelines (WHO/PSA/96.17).

  • Even though drug donations guidelines are to be followed by donors and recipients, be prepared to receive drugs that are not needed, expired or near the expiration date. Have a special team to deal with those cases.

For more information on donations of drugs and medical equipment please visit


Mr. James Fitzgerald
Ph: (202) 974-3282

Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
Tel.: +1 (202) 974-3000 Fax: +1 (202) 974-3663

Pan American Health Organization. All rights reserved.