Donating medicines to welfare projects
THE proposal to donate out-of-date medicines to charitable welfare projects (VR, January 14, 2012, vol 170, pp 58–59), while at first glance may seem well intentioned, does little to reassure me of our profession's commitment to improving standards for animal health in developing countries.
Those of us working in post-conflict and developing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan strive to persuade local veterinarians and farmers to provide timely treatment for their animals using reliable quality medicines (which have been adequately stored) for the purpose. After all, we are promoting sustainable development and increased production for farmers and their families – why should they be offered only second best?
In addition, efforts to improve government quarantine and inspection services in these countries are aimed at reducing imports of ‘non-compliant’ products, including products of animal origin, medicines and biologicals, so such donations are likely to be refused entry at the Border Inspection Post, thus negating any potential benefit and incurring unnecessary costs.
The influx of counterfeit medicines (not only in developing countries) merely results in wasted effort by farmers and veterinarians since many of these fake medicines are so diluted they have little or no active ingredients and are often only marginally cheaper. As a result, farmers see little or no improvement in the health of their animals and quite rightly (in my opinion) believe treatment is a waste of money and effort. Supplying out of date products, where efficacy cannot be determined, at best exacerbates the problem and can, in addition, result in damage to the reputation of genuine products and their manufacturers. The practice of using low potency/dosage medicines may also increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance in the animal and human populations (van der Horst and others 2011) – not a good contribution to the current Global Risk Forum's (GRF) One Health Summit (GRF 2012).
Perhaps practices would find it more appropriate to better manage their stock control to reduce wastage and then donate the saved cash equivalent to reputable agencies for the purchase of the best quality products available. This would bring significantly more benefit to veterinarians and animal keepers in developing countries and would provide assistance in a more professional way.
I know that the Afghanistan Veterinary Association would be pleased to receive financial support for its current practice of procuring quality medicines from reliable European manufacturers; however, it has no interest in receiving out-of-date or short-dated products.
If we really wish to help, why not do it properly and really make a difference?
- British Veterinary Association