Abbott Laboratories and Eli Lilly are leading the efforts of pharmaceutical companies that have acted quickly in response to the earthquake in Haiti, providing cash as well as medicines.

The former firm’s philanthropic foundation, the Abbott Fund, says it will provide $1 million in initial humanitarian aid in response to the quake. This includes donations of pharmaceutical and nutritional products and $100,000 in grants to three of Abbott's “trusted humanitarian aid partners” – American Red Cross, Partners In Health and Catholic Medical Mission Board.

The company says these relief efforts “build on Abbott's existing philanthropic partnerships to expand access to health care” in Haiti. Since 2007, it has provided more than $34 million in grants and product donations “to help address health needs” in the country, including maternal and child health, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition.

Meantime, Lilly has initially pledged $250,000 in direct cash contributions, half of which will be for short-term relief, “with the balance donated over the next 12 months in support of the longer-term rebuilding efforts”. The company said it will also match contributions of its US employees, up to a total of $250,000, and is also working with non-governmental organisation partners working in Haiti “on appropriate donations of medicines”.

Describing the situation in Haiti as “a profound human tragedy,” Robert Smith, president of the Lilly Foundation, said that the “significant number of casualties and widespread property damage require an urgent and compassionate response. We hope Lilly's contributions will help ease some of the suffering”.

It is feared that the earthquake has left as many as 45,000-50,000 dead and the Red Cross estimates that, in total, up to three million people in Haiti have been affected.