Our approach to medicines

PSF Switzerland’s primary vocation is to improve access to quality pharmaceutical care for the most vulnerable populations. Medicines, which are at the heart of our actions, can represent health risks if they are not used in the right conditions. This is the main reason why we do not accept the donation of unused medicines, and why we work exclusively with local suppliers. This not only improves the monitoring and quality of the medicine, but also develops local economic activity, so as to reduce the dependence on international aid. PSF Switzerland thus applies the WHO guidelines. Here are some further explanations.

Unpacking and sorting medicines, Lugala Hospital, 2018. © PSF Switzerland

Donation of medicines

A regulated use

Although generous, this gesture calls for some warnings. When used in the wrong way, medicine can pose health risks. The donation of unused medicines is subject to strict rules and quality requirements.

Many humanitarian organisations active in the field of health, such as the ICRC, UNHCR, MSF or PSF, have committed themselves to follow the WHO Guidelines for Drug Donations.

Guidelines to be taken into account

  • Aid must be adapted to the needs of the field. Any action should be carried out after an on-site needs assessment or upon specific request from local medical staff.
  • The medicine must remain in the hands of health professionals. Quality standards must remain the same in our countries as on the other side of the world.
  • Unused medicines collected from the population should not be included in humanitarian aid.
  • Drug donations must respect the health policies of the recipient country.
  • One-off donations should be avoided and long-term assistance should be prioritised, working with local staff and creating local supply networks that will remain in place after the aid agencies have left.

When sending medicines, problems of delivery and risks of diversion must be taken into account.

Stocks of medicines, Sri Lanka, 2005. © PSF Switzerland

PSF Switzerland and unused medicines donation

Risks taken into account!

Since 1999, PSF Switzerland has committed itself to no longer work with unused medicines.

Why is this so? Truly sustainable development is based on the implementation of local measures and the empowerment of disadvantaged populations. The sending of unused medicines can have serious and severe consequences, from an ethical, health and economic point of view. The attached infographic outlines the main consequences of sending collected medicines.

All these reasons lead PSF Switzerland to favour the purchase of essential generic medicines from local purchasing centres, thus reinforcing the efforts of the authorities to create a sustainable distribution circuit.