- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

From combined dispatches

From antibiotics and pain relievers to bandages, hospital supplies and cash, pharmaceutical and health care companies are lining up donations for victims of Sunday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia and eastern Africa.

The official death toll climbed to 77,000 yesterday, and the Red Cross predicted it could pass 100,000 if respiratory and waterborne diseases break out. More than 500,000 have been reported injured.

Pfizer Inc. of New York, the world’s biggest drug company, said yesterday it will donate $10 million to relief groups operating in the 12 affected countries. Health care giant Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, N.J., announced an initial cash donation of $2 million and was sending wound care, pain relief and personal care products.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co. Inc. pledged an initial contribution of $250,000 to the American Red Cross, plus donations of medicine, while Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. of New York committed $100,000 through the Red Cross and said it would be shipping antibiotics and other products to the region.

Several drug makers with sales offices or manufacturing plants in affected countries, including J&J;, Merck, Swiss-based Novartis AG and Roche Group, and England’s GlaxoSmithKline PLC, said those facilities were donating antibiotics and other medicines, adult nutritional supplements, infant formula and baby food for tsunami victims throughout the region. Meanwhile, dry food, clothing, blankets and cash were being collected by their employees in the area.

Kaiser Permanente, one of the country’s biggest hospital systems, said it would send some of its 5,000 doctors to help and would donate $100,000 to the American Red Cross.

Some companies said they were planning major donations of their products but were waiting for direction from the United Nations or private relief groups such as Project HOPE and AmeriCares to avoid waste. Those included drug makers Wyeth, Schering-Plough Corp. and medical supply maker Becton, Dickinson and Co.

Industrial conglomerate Tyco International Ltd. was sending 200 cases of bandages, sutures, surgical gloves and other products from its health care division.

Several of those companies were coordinating donations through the Stamford, Conn.-based medical relief group AmeriCares, which yesterday sent its first planeload of medical relief supplies to the area.

Employers from India to Thailand, meanwhile, are assessing damages and contending with the grim realities their workers face, providing grief counseling and other assistance.

“It’s a human resources issue, where there’s bereavement across many families,” said Atul Vashistha, chief executive of NeoIT, a San Ramon, Calif., consulting firm specializing in outsourcing.

Madras, a major city on India’s eastern coast, was hit by the deadly tidal waves. But a development center run there by Infosys Technologies Ltd., a major software company whose clients include American Express Co. and Citigroup Inc., wasn’t damaged and all workers are safe, spokeswoman Devon McMahon Corvasce said.

Infosys is donating about $1 million to the relief effort.

Global beverage giant Coca-Cola Co. also is joining. “We and the bottlers are helping with the relief efforts over there,” said Coke spokesman Dan Schafer. Most of Coke’s efforts have been centered on supplying drinking water, which is in critical need, he said. As for the effect on Coke’s business and its facilities, the company still is collecting information.

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