Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pfizer Donates Animal Health Products to Haiti

"Pharma Digs Deep for Haiti Relief" proclaims this headline. Not deep enough according to my accounting!

As you may know, I am keeping score regarding the pharmaceutical industry's donation of money and drugs to Haiti earthquake relief. Although many companies have pledged donations, most of those donations are rather small, especially when compared to the donations the industry made after the Christmas 2004 tsunami in Indonesia (see "So Far, I Have Donated More to Haiti Relief Than Pharma", for an up-to-date accounting). Some rather large companies such as J&J, Roche, and BI have not yet specified what, if any, donations they are making.

Pfizer is playing it close to the vest as far as revealing exactly what its commitment is. Pfizer's Jennifer Kokell, Communications Strategy, Issues Alignment, and the person behind Pfizer's Twitter account (@pfizer_news), answered my inquiry about her company's Haiti relief efforts in this email:
---------- Original Message ----------
From: "Kokell, Jennifer"
Date: January 19, 2010 at 9:50 PM
Subject: Pfizer - Haiti

Hi John,

In response to the devastating earthquake which recently impacted Haiti, Pfizer has been working with several non-government organizations to make a substantial pharmaceutical and animal health product donation and determine the most effective and efficient distribution and allocation of the products for the people of Haiti.  The company will make a monetary donation to designated NGOs and will also match all donations made by its U.S. employees through its "Pfizer Foundations Matching Gifts Program".

(Product donations will include Zithromax and Diflucan, among others)

Our thoughts and hopes go out to all of the people of Haiti and their families throughout the world.


I think this is very non-committal and not a good "communications strategy." For all I know, Pfizer's main donation to Hiati may be the "animal health products" Jen mentions in her email (seems like the animal health division of Pfizer wants to be sure it is part of the company's communications strategy). No dollar amounts are mentioned, although I've heard "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from other sources. Maybe Pfizer is carefully assessing the situation before it makes a public commitment. Who knows? It's all so vague.

Compare this vagueness to Pfizer's donation to 2004 tsunami victims of $10 million in hard cash and $25 million worth of healthcare products.  If we assume that "hundreds of thousands" means $300,000, then Pfizer is giving only a TINY fraction of that (eg, 0.9%) to Haiti (and some of it for Haitian animals)!

Merck and BMS have have pledged to Haiti relief only 20% of what they gave to tsuanami relief.

J&J has not yet responded to my inquires.


  1. I'm usually in agreement with you but on this particular issue I'm afriad you've lost me. And it's not just you, I'm hearing over and over again how this or that company is giving less than (insert some figure below 1 percent here) of it's income to help Haiti.

    Who died and left you all the king of charitable giving? Where's that sarcasm emoticon...

    Can we please stop looking at how much companies/people are giving to Haiti and can we please stop judging them on that amount. How about we take a look at what companies give period. Do I suck becuase I gave less than .01 percent of my total income to Haiti...but 20 percent of it goes to the special olympics, or philabundance, or the SPCA, or after school programs, or wherever I choose to donate my hard earned cash.

    Charity begins at home or so they say.


  2. Traci,

    At issue is not just how much pharma companies are giving to Haitian relief but (1) how this is exaggerated in the press (as in the Pharmaiweb piece), (2) how some pharma companies cannot be forthright in exactly what their contribution is (eg, Pfizer & J&J), and (3) the inept manner in which they are responding to my enquiries (ie, not really answering my questions at all).

    So, nobody died and left me king of charitable giving, although I can say that some pharma's PR people seem pretty dead and not able to fill the information void that I am pointing out!

  3. Hi John,

    Whilst I tend to agree that most of the press statements are a little on the "light" side, in terms of what they are actually donating, and yes we can be cynical about the reasons 'why' they donate at all. But surely any donation is a good thing - as long as the red cross and the WHO can manage it well.

    I think maybe we should compare pharma to other industries, where my guess the donations are significantly less or non existant.


  4. Mike,

    I agree that all donations are good and that the pharma industry probably donates more than others (although I haven't researched that). However, I am bewildered as to why one company's (Pfizer's) donations to tsunami relief in 2005 was 2-3 times greater than ALL the combined donations pharma has pledged so far to Haiti? Is there some calculation based on potential market size for their products (Asia vs Haiti)? What determines how much companies are willing to donate? Why can't some companies add up what they are donating? Are their efforts too haphazard to quantify? Why say you are working with NGOs and not be more specific?

  5. I received the emails below from Americans who work at orphanages in Haiti.
    Their immediate needs of medical supplies are listed. Can they not get them directly from the manufactures? Please go to the last paragraph of the first email. They cannot get tetanus vaccine from the manufactures(s), and need to buy it? The need for tetanus vaccine is also stated desperately in the second email. Why can the vaccine manufacturer(s) donate the vaccine?
    Isn't it an absurdity that Big Pharma gives money with one hand and takes it back with the other?
    Paolo Mignatti

    29 Jan 2010

    Medical Needs – Urgent and Ongoing…..

    Posted by Tom Vanderwell

    As any of you who have been reading Dixie’s posts on here know, medical supplies are an ongoing and urgent need both at GLA and at the hospitals and clinics all over Haiti and specifically the ones near God’s Littlest Angels.
    In conjunction with one of our operations people on the ground and one of the doctors who works at the Haiti Baptist Mission, they came up with the following urgently needed medicines:

    Most urgent:
    Tetanus Vaccines
    Amoxicillin suspension for kids
    Erythromycin suspension for kids
    Cephalexin suspension for kids
    Flagyl injection (500mg/100ml)
    Ciproflaxin 500 mg tablets
    Amoxicillin 500 mg tablets
    Dicloxacillin 500 mg tablets
    Ampicillin 1 gr. for injection
    Gentamicin injection
    Ceftriaxone 1 gr. Injection
    Also needed but not quite as urgent:
    Septra (Bactrim)
    Cephalexin tablets
    Cefoxitin injection 1 gr.
    I’ve mentioned before that we’re talking to two drug companies about tetanus vaccines. It appears that we aren’t going to be able to get the tetanus vaccines donated, so we’ve set up a separate page on the blog at Tetanus Vaccine Donations and would love it if we could get everyone who reads this to go to that page on the site and make a donation, however big or small, towards the cost of providing tetanus vaccines. We don’t have the final costs, but it appears that we’re looking at around $20 per dose.

    Thank you for everything you are doing to help us help the kids in Haiti.

    Tom Vanderwell

    God's Littlest Angels in Haiti
    Tetanus Vaccines
    Below is a quote from Laurie Bickel, our operations director, down in Haiti talking with me by e-mail about the need for tetanus vaccines:
    “I need tetanus vaccines!!! desperately! I’ve been told by others that they are coming but have not seen any… seems to be getting caught up in red tape. I think people will donate to just buy them if we ask! I know getting them donated would be great, but in the meantime people are dying, and it is killing me. Hospitals are calling asking me if I have had any luck in getting some, because tetanus infections are setting in and there is nothing they can do… I am so discouraged about it, and know that the longer we wait the more people who will die needlessly. It is true we will probably lose as many if not more people to infections and what not after than we did during the earthquake, and that breaks my heart!”
    Please, can you do your part and help us save lives?

  6. What can we offer? We're willing to donate and help. But how can we reach you? Where can we give our donations?


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