As Japan starts to recover from the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on March 11, drugmakers have been helping with cash, medicines and supplies.

According to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, the total cash value of assistance provided so far by its members already amounts to $37 million. The majority of the donations are in cash, "as this form of aid is the most helpful according to non-governmental organisation partners specialised in disaster relief".

Companies and their related philanthropic foundations which have reported making donations so far include Abbott, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi-Aventis, plus the Japanese firms Astellas, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai and Takeda. The companies are using "long-established partnerships with expert medical and disaster relief organisations", IFPMA noted, notably the Red Cross, Save the Children, AmeriCares, Direct Relief International and the International Medical Corps.

Eduardo Pisani, director-general of IFPMA, noted that as “countless Japanese people are facing the daunting task of rebuilding their lives and cities...they are dealing with the immediate challenges of homelessness, hunger, contamination of drinking water with potentially life-threatening infectious diseases, and coping with possible psychological health problems". Drugmakers "understand these threats and the difficulty of responding to them for the Japanese government and aid organisations".

Meantime, the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association noted that it has sent 10 tons of drugs such as antibiotics, diabetes treatments and antihypertensives to Sendai and Hanamaki Airport using US military aircraft. In the past week or so, most pharmaceutical companies operating in the country have reported that their staff are safe and they do not expect major disruption to their operations.