Retail Pharmacies Contribute to Japan Relief Efforts


Editor’s Note: On April 7, one month after Japan was hit with the highest magnitude quake in its history, another powerful earthquake struck, triggering a tsunami warning. The US Geological Survey reports that the quake was a magnitude of 7.4 Click here for more information.

By Laura Enderle, Associate Editor

As the long-term effects of Japan’s triple-catastrophe begin to sink in, chain supermarkets and pharmacies across the nation are pooling their resources to deliver much-needed aid to the stricken Japanese people. In addition to their corporate donations to the American Red Cross, many companies are matching employee donations, delivering supplies of food, water, and other necessities, and accepting in-store donations from customers.

Walmart, which operates nearly 400 stores in Japan under the name Seiyu, was among the first retailers to deliver aid just 3 days after the earthquake and tsunami. At Japanese stores that were too damaged to open, Walmart associates set up distribution points in parking lots to provide victims with food, water, and sanitary items. “With the impact of this earthquake on our own communities, customers, associates and suppliers, we wanted to reach out with assistance as soon as possible,” said Scott Price, executive vice president, president and chief executive officer of Walmart Asia.

The store committed $5 million in cash and in-kind donations and is also coordinating employee- and customer-based fundraising campaigns to provide additional help. To provide supplies for the thousands of residents left homeless by the earthquake, Walmart is making an effort to import extra relief items to Japan, including 95 tons of water, acrylic blankets, tents, warm clothes, fleece, portable toilets, flashlights, and batteries.

Chains with fewer immediate ties to the region were also willing to provide aid:

  • Walgreens donated $150,000 to the American Red Cross and will match employee donations up to $100,000.
  • Rite Aid Foundation donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross.
  • Safeway Foundation donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross and established an employee matching pledge of up to $50,000.
  • CVS Caremark Charitable Trust donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross, created an online donation portal for its 200,000 employees, and will match employee donations up to $100,000.

The role of retail pharmacy in delivering global humanitarian aid is critical, especially during natural disasters with long-term implications for public health. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti elicited a similar response from the pharmacy community—both from national chains and individual pharmacists, some of whom boarded planes bound for the island to deliver emergency medical care and establish makeshift pharmacies.

“With the impact of this terrible event still occurring and given the potential for serious long-term health challenges across northeastern Japan, we are providing support to the American Red Cross as it helps the Japanese Red Cross provide first aid, emotional support and relief items to those who have been displaced,” said Eileen Howard Boone, vice president of CVS Caremark Charitable Trust.

A number of pharmaceutical companies have also contributed significant donations to relief organizations, including: Abbott, Amgen, Astellas, AstraZeneca, Bayer Group, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck & Co., Inc., Novartis, Pfizer, Roche Group, sanofi-aventis and Takeda.

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